So innovation is about: associating, questioning, detailing, exploring, with the ability to connect things being the most important one.
The first skill is what we call “associating.” It’s a cognitive skill that allows creative people to make connections across seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas. The second skill is questioning - an ability to ask “what if”, “why”, and “why not” questions that challenge the status quo and open up the bigger picture. The third is the ability to closely observe details, particularly the details of people’s behavior. Another skill is the ability to experiment - the people we studied are always trying on new experiences and exploring new worlds. And finally, they are really good at networking with smart people who have little in common with them, but from whom they can learn.
We’ve found that questioning turbo-charges observing, experimenting, and networking, but questioning on its own doesn’t have a direct effect without the others. Overall, associating is the key skill because new ideas aren’t created without connecting problems or ideas in ways that they haven’t been connected before. The other behaviors are inputs that trigger associating—so they are a means of getting to a creative end.