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The Empowering Neurologist – David Perlmutter, MD, and Melissa Schilling


Last year I had the opportunity to interview professor Melissa Schilling on the topic of diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, in reference to her publication in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

I find it very fascinating that her research and publication are really quite unrelated, seemingly, to her profession as Professor of Management at New York University Stern School of Business.

That said, as yet another manifestation that Prof. Schilling is truly a renaissance person, her new book, Quirky, explores the characteristics of some of the most incredible innovators who have changed the destiny of the world.

What really distinguishes those who literally change the world, those creative geniuses who give us one breakthrough after another, from the rest of us? What differentiates Marie Curie or Elon Musk from the merely creative?

Melissa Schilling, one of the world’s leading experts on innovation, invites us into the lives of eight people — Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Elon Musk, Dean Kamen, Nikola Tesla, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, and Steve Jobs — to identify the traits and experiences that drove them to make spectacular breakthroughs, over and over again. While all innovators possess incredible intellect, intellect alone, she shows, does not create a breakthrough innovator. It was their personal, social, and emotional quirkiness that enabled true genius to break through — not just once, but again and again.

Nearly all of the innovators, for example, exhibited high levels of social detachment that enabled them to break with norms, an almost maniacal faith in their ability to overcome obstacles, and a passionate idealism that pushed them to work with intensity, even in the face of criticism or failure. While these individual traits would be unlikely to work in isolation — being unconventional without having high levels of confidence, effort, and goal orientation might, for example, result in rebellious behavior that does not lead to meaningful outcomes — together they can fuel both the ability and drive to pursue what others deem impossible.

Prof. Schilling shares the science behind the convergence of traits that increases the likelihood of success. And, as Schilling also reveals, there is much to learn about nurturing breakthrough innovation in our own lives, for example in the way we run organizations, manage people, and even how we raise our children.

I was delighted to reconnect with Prof. Schilling for this interview, and cannot wait to explore what’s next for her.

You can follow Prof. Schilling’s research at her website and on Twitter.

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