One of the biggest questions you face on any innovation initiative is who do we need to help to understand and solve this?
The question applies at each stage of the innovation life cycle, from the first brainstorm session, where you look at potential problems to solve, right through to the launch of the solution.
Some of the answers to this question are simple:
So what are we missing? Let’s turn this around and think about ways of thinking. It is well known that diversity of thought creates an environment where different perspectives and “outside the box” ideas are heard. To enable nonlinear, novel thinking and create the innovation dream team, you need to create a diverse team of individuals who will bring the different ways of thinking that you will need on every project.
Here are three types of professionals you’ll need:
By definition there’s no specific place you’ll find generalists, although they may be more prevalent in central teams or cross-solution roles. You’ll need one because planning the innovation journey requires strategic thinking.
There’s typically no replacement for actual hands-on experience of a problem. You can often find “been there, done that” perspectives by identifying colleagues who have previously operated in certain roles for clients in your industry. This does not replace the need to talk to prospective buyers and users of your solution, but you do get:
These are not experts in existing technology, but capability-focused horizon scanners. You might find them in technology teams, but you’ll also find them scattered throughout organizations. This profile is outward and forward-looking with a grasp of emerging trends, nascent technologies and an appetite to apply them. Their profile is defined by:
If you get the right mix of profiles in your project, the challenge becomes how you channel these different perspectives into a habit of positive challenges. What you typically want to see is:
This brings us to the final element of our team that is again often overlooked. You’ll need a strong project leader to ensure the various perspectives pull together and coalesce around a common direction and goal.
Innovation leadership certainly warrants its own article. For now, here is a short list of attributes innovation leaders should demonstrate:
Having the right multi-disciplinary expertise and ways of thinking involved in any innovation project does not guarantee success. However, there is one critical factor that all team members must strive to cultivate – and leaders must ensure they support – to give your project your best shot: a growth mindset.
A growth mindset is defined as a set of attitudes and behaviors that embrace change, strive for constant improvement and reflect the belief that individuals are able to develop, learn and grow. You accept that you may not be able to solve a certain challenge yet, but you have the ability to push the boundaries and explore new paths that will eventually enable you to solve it. Innovation projects are all about navigating the unknown and trying new things for the first time, so feeling comfortable with ambiguity and seeing it as an opportunity is key.
The good news is that a growth mindset can be trained! We can all cultivate a growth mindset by nurturing self-awareness, consciously making the decision to push ourselves and not losing sight of the goal.
Uncertainty is an innate part of innovation, and we should not fear failure itself. However, there is a distinction between a concept failing and a process failing. Getting the right ways of thinking within or available to your innovation dream team is key to ensuring your innovation fails for the right reasons.