The Idea in Brief

The habits of Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and other innovative CEOs reveal much about the underpinnings of their creative thinking. Research shows that five discovery skills distinguish the most innovative entrepreneurs from other executives.


  • Questioning allows innovators to break out of the status quo and consider new possibilities.
  • Through observing, innovators detect small behavioral details—in the activities of customers, suppliers, and other companies—that suggest new ways of doing things.
  • In experimenting, they relentlessly try on new experiences and explore the world.
  • And through networking with individuals from diverse backgrounds, they gain radically different perspectives.


  • The four patterns of action together help innovators associate to cultivate new insights.

“How do I find innovative people for my organization? And how can I become more innovative myself?”

A version of this article appeared in the December 2009 issue of Harvard Business Review.