Stay married to a medical scientist—as I’ve been—long enough and he’s bound to influence your thinking. Engage in conversation with a pioneering biologist like E.O. Wilson, and you’re likely to be propelled to look differently at the world of business innovation.

Flanked by my husband’s perspective on DNA and genomes on one side and Wilson’s encouragement and inspiration on the other, I began my journey to discover what I call the “business genome” approach. I engaged in discussions with a diverse array of business leaders who shared insights about how they changed the games for their companies. My goal was to understand the secret sauce of business innovation—how an organization truly finds its “next.”

A few years ago, I sat ...

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