There are many stories of great innovations being driven by individual, lone ranger geniuses. The people who toil away by themselves, eventually coming up with a new, innovative product or service which takes the world by storm. However, these are rare, and in almost all cases the figureheads had a team working with them throughout the whole process.
Most teams aren’t aware of the drivers of creativity and innovative behavior, and therefore may be sabotaging their members’ abilities to come up with groundbreaking ideas and building them into something tangible. Have you ever experienced the following?
- Having a “brainstorming session” where one or two people dominate the discussion, shooting down the ideas of others
- Having a corporate retreat or workshop, after which nothing changes and people do things the same old way
- Different teams working on their part of a project separately from other teams, E.g. Marketing, Engineering and Customer Care
- Getting praise for a good idea and being asked to develop it further, but to not let it distract you from your current work
There are a number of traits, techniques and tools which innovative teams possess in order to produce breakthroughs:
- Diversity: In order to get ideas from different perspectives, you need teams with diversity, across ages, genders and backgrounds.
- Cross-pollination: Often breakthroughs or solutions to your challenges are happening in other industries, companies or even teams in your own organisation. Learn and build on these.
- Tools: To discuss challenges and come up with new ideas, you will need tools and spaces to write, draw, record, build and break down things.
- Location: Collaboration on ideas works best in person, in an informal space free from interruptions. This could be anything from dedicated rooms to stairways or tables in corridors for quick catch-ups.
- Effective Brainstorming: Most brainstorming sessions are little more than meetings. Effective Brainstorming is structured in a way to not only produce a plethora of ideas, but find the most appropriate and figure out how to take them forward.
- Evaluation: Not all ideas are valuable. You need stringent criteria against which they can be evaluated for anything to happen.
- Direction & Limitations: The most valuable ideas address a specific and understandable challenge, and work within the limits set by that challenge. Limits could be budget, regulation, size, performance, fashion trend, anything.
- Resources: Does your team have the right mix of people, equipment and budget to address the challenge.
- Time: Coming up with new ideas takes time and effort, as does refining them. People need to be allocated sufficient time to work through this.
- Experimentation: Fail often and fail early. When finding the optimal solution to a challenge, it is most effective to have a large number of quick & cheap tests and prototypes to find solutions which fail and refine those which could work.