Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos are all well-known innovators whose revolutionary contributions within technology, commerce and communications touch our lives on a daily basis. While relatively few organisations can boast an individual trailblazing Steve, Bill or Jeff, it is perfectly possible for teams to foster innovative thinking. Early 2019 may be a good time to put your own innovative practices under the microscope and get them into the best possible shape to support your organisation during the year ahead.
Let’s start by looking at some of the key traits of an innovative team:
Key features of innovative teams
- Diversity – of knowledge, skills, experience and thinking brings different perspectives and problem- solving approaches. The result is often greater originality and a range of more innovative solutions.
- Collaboration – willingness to listen to, engage with and take on board others’ contributions. Collaboration is about leveraging the group’s strengths and balancing gaps in skills, knowledge and attributes.
- Engagement – motivated individuals who show interest and engage with their work, enjoy problem- solving and recognise the value they can add, are more likely to contribute positively to the innovation process.
- Constructive challenge – non-conformist team members have the courage to challenge the status quo and encourage others to think differently; this constructive disruption can stimulate discussions.
- Agility – adaptable individuals unconstrained by hierarchy or fixed structure (e.g. they can organise themselves without a directive leader and make joint decisions) respond proactively to new challenges.
Innovative team role profiles
Although the required team profile will vary by organisation size and sector, what remains constant is the need for a diverse and multi-disciplinary group with the right balance of expertise, skills and innovation behaviours to ensure strengths can be maximised at relevant stages of the innovation process. An innovative team profile may include the following:
Their strategic thinking and ability to create a roadmap covering long-term outcomes and expectations is crucial when planning any innovation journey. Strategy requires consideration of both short- and long-term factors but success is limited without an underpinning vision of the future.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, compared the value of long-term strategic thinking to “….short-term profitability considerations or short-term Wall Street reactions”. Amazon’s continued global domination reflects the sustainability of his strategy and the benefit of being able to see a bigger, longer-term vision of where you want to be.
Their depth of expertise in relevant areas creates a focus for innovation. They can answer such questions as “where are the current gaps?”, “what’s the ideal?”, “what factors need to be considered?” and so on. With their specialist knowledge, Technical Experts can be relied upon to offer valuable insight in determining the feasibility of creative ideas and the viability of solutions in context.
Louis Vuitton was able to launch its first ready-to-wear collection following the appointment of fashion guru Marc Jacobs as creative director in 1997. Here in the UK, the business expertise of revered baronesses Michelle Mone and Karren Brady has been in demand to stimulate growth, not only at board level within major organisations but their advice has also supported government agendas for change.
Daring to be different, these challengers of the status quo are passionate, assertive, innovation-oriented and motivated to produce original ideas and solutions. Their contribution, with input from the Technical Experts, is valuable particularly during the idea generation phase.
With his passion for electronics and computer design, Steve Jobs was responsible for many iconic and ground-breaking products as well as his unusual approach to change within Apple itself, which reflected an ongoing motivation towards change and originality.
Intrinsically motivated towards change and innovation (and equally comfortable with ambiguity), harmonisers support the collaboration needed for innovation. Individuals display strength in group settings, seek to achieve harmony and promote the cohesion required for effective teamwork.
Bringing together a nation divided for decades by apartheid, Nelson Mandela’s emphasis on partnership and unification reflects key features of the collaborative ethos needed for success in innovation. Similarly, Harmoniser Angelina Jolie’s world-renowned humanitarian work in areas such as human rights, community development, child protection and education, reflects the values of equality and cooperation that underpin the nature of this profile.
Their strength lies in communicating the innovation journey, garnering support, generating engagement, celebrating successes and developing the innovation dialogue – this is critical for creating a culture in which the value of innovation is embedded.
Emmeline Pankhurst could be considered as one of the ultimate champions of change. Her steadfast commitment to garnering support challenged the status quo and ultimately secured the female vote. Jamie Oliver may be a modern-day equivalent thanks to his enduring commitment to improving the eating habits of a generation of children as part of the Feed Me Better campaign, which emerged from his notorious ‘School Dinners’ series.
They plan, manage and oversee programmes of work, using relevant methodologies and tools to manage the practical implementation of innovation. Whilst innovation requires creativity and adaptability, it is still a process in which monitoring of progress against goals is required to ensure successful and sustainable implementation.
Winston Churchill famously said: “Those who plan do better than those who do not plan, even though they rarely stick to their plan”. Leading Britain successfully through the Second World War required a structured plan with clear and unchanging goals. However, as this quote reflects, structure should not be without capacity for adaptation and Churchill had to balance restrictions in time, space and funding with enough flexibility to respond effectively to both internal and external influences.
We might recognise many of these individuals as leaders and innovators in their own right and are equally familiar with their sometimes infamous personality traits! However, the construction of innovative teams requires emphasis on diversity and consideration of how individual innovation profiles complement each other. This variety of innovation behaviours and a willingness to collaborate can be a recipe for innovation success.
Work Psychology Group specialises in profiling innovation at individual and team levels within organisations and supports the development of innovation cultures more broadly. If you are interested in exploring or developing the innovation behaviours of the individuals in your teams, click here to contact us and find out more.