Teamwork and Innovation - Spring2 Innovation

Teamwork and Innovation

May 23, 2012

innovation involves team work

Innovation involves many ideas and people contributing. Its not a solo act.

We all have different backgrounds, interests and passions. Bringing ideas and learnings together brings about innovations and creates new ways of approaching challenges. It’s about allowing everyone on the team to incorporate their thoughts.

At the end of the day we are trying to solve challenges through new products and services. Sometimes our customers may not even know that they have the challenges because they have gotten used to how they do things.

How do you create space for everyone to incorporate their thoughts?

Frame your challenges – to give the team a better feeling for where they should start thinking. This structure helps team members feel more confident about their ideas rather than taking stabs in the dark.

Create a safe environment – if there is mutual respect on the team then members are more likely to hear each other’s thoughts and also build on them. The team is more likely to take the idea further if they have confidence in the idea originator.  The composition of the team and the team members’ ability to jel can either make innovation easy or conversely, extremely difficult.  If your team lacks mutual respect you can try creating rules around idea development but it then becomes a less organic process.

Have weekly brainstorm sessions with team members bringing in ideas to the session and allow everyone to state their ideas. Questions can create a defensive reflex in some team members and the facilitator or brain storming session lead will need to emphasize that questions are to understand the idea and build on top of it rather than dismiss or reject the ideas.

Allow for ideas to be brought in from outside the team either to pursue or create more innovative sparks within the team.  This can be done in a number of ways such as by going out and soliciting ideas or observing others including customers. My personal favourite is change of environment; whether it is visiting customers, partners and competitors or going away to experience different ways of life and different ways of doing things.

At the end of the day when teams work together the outcome can be greater than the sum of each individual’s work.

I can still recall one of the team building activities in business school that helped get across how much team work can make a difference.  Each team had blocks of differing lengths and had to replicate a pattern in as little time as possible within our teams consisting of six people.  We tried many times to come in below 10 seconds but nothing worked until one of the other teams realized that if each person on the team placed 1/6th of the blocks at the same time to create the one pattern they could get their time well below 10 seconds.  The trick in everyday work environments is to provide everyone on your team equal time to get their ideas out.