I have been enjoying The Ten Faces of Innovation, a book by Tom Kelley of Ideo. It’s a smart way of looking at an inherently messy concept. Mr. Kelley talks about how he sees the designers around him as one of ten different personalities. These personalities work together to drive innovation.
The role I can relate to best is what he refers to as The Anthropologist. In one passage, he talks about how “anthropologists practice the Zen principle of beginner’s mind.”
Even with extensive educational backgrounds and lots of experience in the field, people in the Anthropologist role seem unusually willing to set aside what they know, looking past tradition and even their own preconceived notions. They have the wisdom to observe with a truly open mind.