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Characteristics of technical visionaries as perceived by American and British industrial physicists

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This research explores which characteristics most frequently appear in industrial technical visionaries and which are perceived as being the most important contributors to their success. Industrial technical visionaries are defined as ‘technical individuals who effectively synthesize multiple technologies and business strategy to identify new and innovative breakthrough products and processes’. The perceptions of a total of 418 American and British industrial physicists were evaluated for this study to produce the first descriptive analysis of these key individuals based on a large-scale investigation. The research provides a profile of technical visionary characteristics that can be employed in identifying those with the potential for contributing in this role.

In addition to their recognized depth and breadth of technical expertise, technical visionaries are, first and foremost, emotionally involved, energetic, stubborn in pursuing objectives and interpersonally capable. They are a self-motivated driving force in a firm, not just the source of technical insight. These individuals' knowledge of, and ability to navigate, the business world is perceived as more important to their success than most of their technical skills, other than technical depth. Finally, the traits associated with technical visionaries' ‘idealist’ nature are perceived as important, indicating that this characteristic should not be overlooked as defining who these individuals are.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Business Administration, College of Business, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 350 Wohlers Hall, 1206 South 6th Street, Champaign, IL 61820, USA , Email: 2: Department of General Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 117 Transportation Building, 104 South Mathews, Urbana, IL 61801, USA , Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2006


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