The time has come for you to organize a cross-functional group that is meant to develop new products, services or processes for the company. The innovation team starts off with the creative phase so it’s very important not to get off the track here because it can be really tricky. When brainstorming for ideas, you’ll get a wide range of potential innovation project outcomes. It’s always easier if you have in mind a couple of simple tips on establishing a structure in the most efficient way. Every innovation project is different, yet we look for patterns in the most successful ones. Thus, if you want to enhance the performance of your innovation team, make sure your pattern has these four elements and you’re ready for action.
The goal you’re chasing has to be clear and set upfront. Having your team on the same page and moving towards the same goal are the two major success factors. High-performance teams set their goals at the start of a project and revisit it periodically to make sure they still share the same vision. The hard part of the goal-setting phase is finding the perfect dose of challenge. Team members should not be intimidated by it, but highly motivated since you need the inspired people for accomplishing great achievements. Once you find that perfect dose of challenge, the only thing your team members are going to be occupied with is how to achieve the goal. Therefore, you should let your team participate in goal setting, and in this way, strengthen their commitment to the cause.
In a different scenario, if the goal is not set with clarity, you may break down bigger goals into less time-limited tasks. It will structure your process and eliminate distractions so your team members can concentrate on delivering real-world results.
Separating the right ideas from the wrong is another crucial moment of the process since it’s equally important to define what you don’t want to achieve. By discarding low potential ideas at the very beginning, you are not going to waste any resources in further product/service development processes.
Authority over the project is another important aspect of organizing innovation teams. Co-leadership is a great thing in most situations but when a smaller group of individuals tries to achieve a clear goal, having just one appointed leader is an optimum. Owning the vision and keeping it transparent keep the group moving fast which can be crucial in setting success. This person has to have a final say when it comes to team selection, potential changes, and substitutions in order to constantly respond to the requirements of the innovation project.
Also, there’s always a teammate who naturally takes the role of leader, usually when he or she holds relevant expertise. This is a common thing in practice and it depicts a high level of team functionality. In this manner, your team avoids inefficient decision-making and it’s set to be successful.
One of the greatest challenges when creating an innovation team is to reach a compromise between assembling a team of pure creatives or a team of rigid workers with profound industrial experience. In the first case, you will have a bunch of innovative ideas that can’t be implemented, and the other one will result in no breakthrough ideas. You need to increase the likelihood of identifying undiscovered possibilities by uniting different and even opposing perspectives inside an innovation team.
One fact is certain- each team member has to understand the key activities and the actual work behind the innovation project. The idea of a team’s diverse backgrounds is to bring in a wider perspective, making them capable of “thinking outside the box”. Diversity of team members means that the sum of experiences, skills, academic knowledge, and professional networks is higher and it ultimately leads to generating fresh thinking. Values that should be considered mutual among team members are goals, leadership, open communication and trust. This kind of set up can be very helpful when it comes to addressing challenges and questions that turn up along the way.
Conflict happens when teammates challenge each other’s assumptions and it originates from a mutual desire to come up with an ideal solution. It is often uncomfortable because it means leaving your “safe zone”, yet, if properly navigated, it can be the healthy manner of generating innovations and breakthroughs.
On the one hand, expanding your innovation team’s debate is a way to stimulate discussions. As long as the leader can facilitate the conversations to provide open communication, trust, support, patience, and finally to encourage creative problem-solving, it’s good for innovation. On the other hand, it really can be overdone and it is the reason why people tend to avoid any kind of conflict. Destructive conflict is something that has to be addressed as soon as it shows up and to be resolved before escalation. Learning how to address unproductive conflicts in teams is crucial for team morale and productivity.
Naturally, assembling people of different perspectives and roles definitely creates some friction at the workplace, but if you manage it wisely, you will obtain outstanding results through synergy. It’s important that people involved are aligned on the overall vision and that the new ideas are being presented and debated.
Being a great leader is challenging in most situations. Working in teams as well. It requires a high level of collaboration in order to get things done, despite mutual differences among team members and external factors. As a leader, you will play a vital role in getting your team to focus and work together in synergy. Goals. Authority. Diversity. Debate. Make sure you have what it takes.