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Anyone can learn to innovate. That’s what researchers from Harvard Business School, Insead and Brigham Young University say, after a six-year study.

They’ve identified the five secrets to being a great innovator: associating, questioning, observing, experimenting and networking.

“We found that it’s like exercising your muscles—if you engage in the actions you build the skills,” says Insead’s Hal Gregersen.

For example, to improve your questioning skills, Gregersen recommends identifying a problem and writing nothing but questions about it for 10 minutes a day for 30 days. Your questions will gradually change, as will your understanding of the problem.

To build your observation skills, identify a business, customer, supplier or client, and spend a day or two watching how they work.

Network like an innovator by setting aside 30 minutes a week to talk with a contact you wouldn’t normally talk to, says Marc Ventresca, a lecturer in strategic management at the University of Oxford Saïd Business School.

The goal:
to expose yourself to a mix of ideas by getting to know people from varied backgrounds, in different industries and deal with different issues.

— Adapted from “Learn the five secrets of innovation,” Mark Tutton, CNN.

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