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Innovation: A Team Sport

Innovation and creativity are not entities and they do not happen spontaneously.

They are the fruits of people, people interacting and working together, complete with all of the friction and personality clashes.  Innovation is analogous to a musical writing partnership or team sports.  If all roles are performing well, we get a positive force for innovation.  And just with sports teams, it is not essential to have total excellence in every area.  Some of the most effective and innovative teams have true excellence in one or two areas combined with strength in many others.  There may be stars in our team, but the team is the powerhouse.

Perspiration, dedication and hard work are also at the centre of creativity and innovation, honing skills practiced and developed over long periods of time, until they really work.  Here are Some basic principles for success:

  1. Stretch for Strength:  Flexibility is more important than strength, size or power.  Many ‘giants’ of the business world have disappeared as smaller, more nimble companies stole the market through exercising their flexibility and operating according to new business models.
  2. Go for distance:  Innovation is less about a programme and more about a way of life; a culture.  It is a culture that should be at the centre of every part of an organisation and one which continues to evolve and develop with time, and over time.  It is about longevity rather than fad.
  3. Never give in:  Wherever there is innovation there are obstacles and these must be overcome.  Personalities within our teams will be able to see ways around whatever obstacle is in the way or objection raised.  At these times close collaboration and problem sharing are essental for going the distance.
  4. Fight the mental battles:  One of the biggest obstacles or hurdle to our progress looms in the battle of the mind; our psyche.  To quote Tom Kelley, ‘Innovators have the uncommon sense to pursue ideas long after others give up.’
  5. Celebrate the coach:  Behind every great sports team there is a geat coach.  Behind every great project team there is a great coach.  They may not be in the limelight, but they labour tirelessly in the background making sure everything and everyone stays together.  The right coach brings out the best and we notice the difference

The most successful teams comprise a rich mix of different types of people with different personalities or personas, different talents and abilities, different temperaments.  The correct mix will produce sufficient innovative friction to push forward the team and push forward the innovative process.

When innovation is experienced, it is a mighty force to inspire further innovation.  Perhaps the most important step is to make a start, no matter how small, get the innovation engine turning over, see the benefits and build on them.  And these benefits will be pretty obvious when they occur, hopefully enough to overcome politics and convert even the most cynical as they see a turn-around in their group, department, business unit or  company.

And innovation doesn’t just turn companies around, it becomes a way of life.

My Zimbio
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