Setting Up a Quick Turn Innovation Team – Part 1

Part 1: Picking the Right People

We love the innovation strategy work that we do and are big proponents of helping companies incorporate innovation into every part of the organization, so that everyone considers it part of their job AND has the tools and training needed to innovate. But there are times when there is a particular challenge that needs laser-like focus, and at those times establishing a quick-turn innovation team may be the best way to get traction quickly.

Because these quick-turn teams are typically time-bound and focused on one challenge, there may not be a lot of time or resources to get them up and running.  But you can’t just lock a few people in a room and say, “go!”  Over the years, we have identified three things that are important to the success of quick-turn innovation teams:

  1. Picking the right people
  2. Providing training and tools
  3. Support, Support, Support!

Picking the Right People:

It is important to note that in many companies the people who brainstorm or nurture new ideas are separate from those who sit on a committee somewhere picking which ideas to fund.   And they shouldn’t be confused.   Here we are talking about selecting a quick-turn team tasked with actually creating the ideas.  How do you pick the best people for this job?  Which selection criteria should be used to select the team?  Every organization is a bit different, but there are some basic things to consider when putting the team together:

  • Cross-Functional – There is no substitute for a team that consists of people from different places in the organization, representing different roles. It’s important that part of that cross functional team includes people who understand the customer experience, as no matter what you are innovating around, customers should be at the center.
  • Diversity of Thinking – Groupthink stifles creativity. The best way to get diverse thinking is by loading your team with people who have diverse experiences and ways of addressing the challenge. Look for people with a mix of industry backgrounds, length of time at the company, way of thinking (divergent vs convergent), demographics, etc.
  • Well-Respected – No matter what the team comes up with, they will need to effectively sell their ideas and plan to the rest of the organization. The team should be comprised of people who are considered unbiased and focused on the best interest of the customers and company.   A mix of levels is a positive, and having some leaders on board demonstrates the importance of the team, but avoid people who may “take over”.
  • Understand Innovation – It is helpful to have some people on the team who have been on innovation teams in the past, they often can help lend some guidance to the process. While not training the team per se, they can model for the team what it looks like to freely share and build on new ideas, without reservations or judgement.  While vetting of ideas can also be done by this team, it should be done in a structured way and not on the fly.

After you have picked your team it is time to get them set-up for success – check out Part 2 of this series for more on providing training and tools as well as support for quick-turn innovation teams!

Anne Bakstad

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