Nearly 80 percent of executives surveyed by The Boston Consulting Group’s tenth global survey on innovation considered innovation to be either the most important priority at their company or in the top three. Employees, however, can be more skeptical. They’re already overloaded and adding “innovate” to their task load may not get a good reaction. However, there are ways to cultivate innovation department success, and creating an innovation department is one of them. Here are six building blocks for creating a successful innovation department or team.
1. Put the Right People on the Team
An innovation team or department should be made up of a diverse cross-section of employees. They should come from different departments and should have different work experiences. True innovation requires diverse perspectives and confidence in everyone’s ability to add value to the innovation process. You can’t do that with a room full of clones.
2. Define Roles and Processes
An innovation department needs a leader with a clearly defined role. Likewise, everyone else on the innovation team should have a defined role. Creating an innovation process is critical because it helps everyone stay accountable to the same guiding principles. Furthermore, a defined innovation process helps ensure that the best ideas are pursued and not accidentally forgotten.
3. Don’t Allow One or Two People to Dominate the Team
If one or two people dominate every brainstorming session or innovation meeting, there’s no point in having a team. In fact, a study by MIT and Carnegie Mellon found that teams where people’s contributions are more evenly distributed significantly outperform teams dominated by one or two loud voices. Make sure that every team member knows that each team member matters.
4. Allocate Time for the Team to Meet
For innovation to happen, an innovation team needs to have time to work. Allocating specific times for team members to work on ideas and projects promotes actual results. This may mean designating a specific project for team members to charge their time to while working with the team. Additionally, individual team members must have the time (and funding) to devote to their individual contributions to innovation projects.
5. Create an Environment of Psychological Safety
Big ideas happen in a climate of psychological safety. This means that innovation team members are unafraid to voice their ideas and that the team understands that some innovation initiatives inevitably fail. Risk is inherent in innovation, and an innovation department or team must be willing to take risks. Team members should not be afraid of their less orthodox ideas being shot down right out of the gate by one or two vociferous teammates.
6. Use Innovation Management Software
Rarely do innovation problems stem from a shortage of ideas. The problems tend to come from a lack of idea management. Innovation management software helps innovation teams make sure that all good ideas are recorded and accessible to team members and designated decision-makers. With innovation management software, innovation teams can solicit, collect, evaluate, and pursue innovations with minimum wasted time and backtracking. Innovation management software also allows visibility into the process of taking an idea through to production. Innovation is creative by nature, but putting it to work requires organization.
IdeaScale understands the critical roles of communication and collaboration in bringing innovations to life. If it’s time for your organization to put its best ideas to work, we invite you to contact us.
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