5 Ways to Foster Productive Innovation Teams

 In Innovation, Leadership, Product Management

Innovation comes in many shapes and sizes, from products to platforms to process, but at its core, successful innovation is a people and culture challenge.  Creating a culture that fosters innovation to support teams with the organizational mindset that allows them to flourish is the foundation for successful innovation in any business that delivers products or services.  Successful teams recognize the obstacles to innovation, are equipped with tactics to overcome those obstacles and have the skills to take an agile approach to idea selection, product planning and execution.  But how do you develop and nurture teams that can deliver innovation on a repeatable basis?

Here are five ways to think about innovation for your business:

1) People are the key: Innovation depends on the skills, expertise and personality of key individuals or champions.  The execution of innovation initiatives is the work of high – functioning teams where the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts.  Regardless of the type of innovation initiative, success depends not on the idea or technology, but on people interacting with people.

2) Passion matters: We believe that passion trumps process every time.  Top-performing teams share passion about a particular vision and that common goal drives people toward success.  It is passion about an innovative idea or approach that makes the individual team members want to take risks and be accountable.  Passion delivers results.

3) Risk is good: Risk represents the opportunity to do something valuable but keep in mind that most management processes exist to minimize risk and, as implemented, can be obstacles to innovation.  Organizations that succeed at innovation encourage their teams to make many attempts and to fail quickly and fail often.  We like one of Richard Branson’s insights about innovation that links success to failure – if you haven’t failed yet, you haven’t been in business long enough.

4) Embrace change: There are no crystal balls that can predict the future.  Your innovation teams need to have the capacity to run multiple activities in parallel, without complete knowledge of the requirements or what the outcome of other initiatives will be.  It is important to keep in mind that change usually means conflict and new ideas always means something will change.  If nobody’s riled up, it is probably not worth the effort.

5) Time is the enemy: We have an expression that says, “brakes let you go fast.”  The ability to kill innovation initiatives quickly when the payoff is not clear or attainable will free up precious resources for your teams to start on new paths.  The best thing you can do is kill bad ideas quickly; the worst thing you can do is to kill good ideas slowly.

In summary, innovation is a team sport.  Your organization’s capacity to innovate is only limited by the number and quality of high-performing teams you can configure at any given time, not by how many individual resources you have on the bench.

 

(This article originally appeared in the Boston Chamber of Commerce blog)

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