Innovation has become a buzzword that’s associated with a variety of misconceptions. One of which is that innovation is a personality type. Without a doubt, some innovators are high-energy extroverts. However, most disrupters and innovators are everyday team members. Most importantly, not every out-of-the-box thinker can successfully innovate in all settings. There needs to be a synergy that includes the following drivers.

#1 Intrinsic Motivation

Have you ever had a team member that was highly innovative on one project, and not so much on the next? It’s easy to assume they’ve lost their edge, but it’s more likely that they aren’t as passionate about the next project. We often think of the need for new ideas to be enough to spark disruptive thinking. In truth, the sincere desire to solve the problem drives creativity. That being said, you may be able to spark intrinsic motivation by focusing on a wider range of positive outcomes. We often focus so much on singular outcomes (more profit, beating the competition, turning things around) that we forget the need to gain interest and buy-in. Set the goal of creating a shared mission that aligns with a variety of your team member’s wants, needs, and values and innovation may follow.

#2 Psychological Safety

Organizations that are consistently at the cutting-edge empower their team members to brainstorm, ask questions, and share thoughts without reprisal or rebuke. This is easier said than done. We all like to celebrate a policy of open lines of communication, but if we allow snickering, eye-rolling, cutting people off when they speak, or taking differing ideas and opinions personally—we aren’t creating an environment that supports our objectives of openness. Harvard Professor, Amy Edmondson, found that psychological safety also increases the capacity for learning and minimizes blind spots. She also found that the need for psychological safety is consistent across a variety of industries. However, we must not mistake psychological safety for agreement. The need for agreement is often based on ego, which can get in the way of cohesion, productivity, and ongoing innovation.

#3 Non-Ego Driven

We’re human, so our ego will get the best of us at times. Especially when we are enthusiastic about an idea. Even more so if we’ve invested a significant amount of time and financial resources. However, we must not allow our ego to drive our decisions, or our team’s decisions. The ongoing practice of disrupting and taking things to the next level must be evolving. This means we must embrace and celebrate questions and input that challenge our thought processes. There will inevitably be tension when ideas and opinions conflict, but how we navigate the tension is what matters most. The goal is to create a psychologically safe environment where people expect to have their perspectives challenged. Not only that, by someone who may look, talk, and think differently.

#4 Generosity

One of the ways leaders can minimize tension is to encourage generosity. It might sound a bit airy-fairy at first, but consider the trickle-down effect.

Also, consider times you’ve faced professional challenges and were met with generosity versus anger, retaliation, and rebuke.

  • Which approach was more effective?
  • Which approach made you feel more valuable?
  • Which approach encouraged ongoing innovation?
  • Which approach was more effective?
  • Which approach made you feel more valuable?
  • Which approach encouraged ongoing innovation?

Generosity wins every time. Next, consider the best innovators you know. Odds are, the overwhelming majority are friendly, generous, and genuine. Finally, consider that generosity can provide you with a competitive advantage. This is discussed in great detail in Greg Satell’s book Mapping Innovation: A Playbook for Mapping a Disruptive Age.

#5 Time Equity

In most cases, one or two leaders or team members dominate conversations. This might be the leader, project manager, or the assigned innovator. If the objective is to elevate your current solutions or curate new solutions—a wider range of insights is required. While the need for solo-led presentations remains, the majority of meetings should foster time equity. Each department, team, or person should be provided with time to share. This isn’t to suggest setting a timer, but to actively encourage input from everyone. Even from other departments, as multi-department collaboration has never been more essential.

#6 Team and Organizational Diversity

Homogenous hiring is something that both startups and tenured organizations continue to struggle with. We hire those who we already know, and who they know—sometimes ending up with teams that look and think just like us. For innovation, we need teams that are aligned with our organizational objectives, but whose life experience will deliver out-of-the-box ideas. In-depth research and statistics show that diverse teams are proven to be smarter, more creative, and more thorough. It’s also a misconception that you can’t have comradery and comfort with diverse teams, as we all have more in common than not. In this case, organizational objectives. If your entire team has the same outlook, you run the risk of creating an echo chamber. Minimize this risk by prioritizing diversity in:

  • Ethnicity
  • Culture and customs
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Sexual orientation
  • Social status
  • Socioeconomic background
  • Transferable skill sets
  • And more!

#7 Build Teams

Not every team member needs to be a shining star. Instead, focus your objective on hiring a diverse range of skilled specialists who enjoy working as part of a team. Yes, there will be solo projects and some of your team members may be remote—but you can build a powerful team with the right people. Continue to screen and hire for skill and organizational alignment. If you aren’t yet, aim for team collaboration as one of your areas of alignment. When solo experts are required, consider filling those gaps with third-party specialists. Looking for an Innovation Strategist? Even with teams who possess the skills and traits above, your team can have blind spots. Or you may simply be missing the research, strategies, and technology required to bring your ideas to life. If that’s the case, we invite you to reach out to the team at Idea Scale. We partner with you to accelerate innovation with a signature suite of ideation services. Let’s get started!

Innovation has become a buzzword that’s associated with a variety of misconceptions. One of which is that innovation is a personality type. Without a doubt, some innovators are high-energy extroverts. However, most disrupters and innovators are everyday team members. Most importantly, not every out-of-the-box thinker can successfully innovate in all settings. There needs to be a synergy that includes the following drivers.

#1 Intrinsic Motivation

Have you ever had a team member that was highly innovative on one project, and not so much on the next? It’s easy to assume they’ve lost their edge, but it’s more likely that they aren’t as passionate about the next project. We often think of the need for new ideas to be enough to spark disruptive thinking. In truth, the sincere desire to solve the problem drives creativity. That being said, you may be able to spark intrinsic motivation by focusing on a wider range of positive outcomes. We often focus so much on singular outcomes (more profit, beating the competition, turning things around) that we forget the need to gain interest and buy-in. Set the goal of creating a shared mission that aligns with a variety of your team member’s wants, needs, and values and innovation may follow.

#2 Psychological Safety

Organizations that are consistently at the cutting-edge empower their team members to brainstorm, ask questions, and share thoughts without reprisal or rebuke. This is easier said than done. We all like to celebrate a policy of open lines of communication, but if we allow snickering, eye-rolling, cutting people off when they speak, or taking differing ideas and opinions personally—we aren’t creating an environment that supports our objectives of openness. Harvard Professor, Amy Edmondson, found that psychological safety also increases the capacity for learning and minimizes blind spots. She also found that the need for psychological safety is consistent across a variety of industries. However, we must not mistake psychological safety for agreement. The need for agreement is often based on ego, which can get in the way of cohesion, productivity, and ongoing innovation.

#3 Non-Ego Driven

We’re human, so our ego will get the best of us at times. Especially when we are enthusiastic about an idea. Even more so if we’ve invested a significant amount of time and financial resources. However, we must not allow our ego to drive our decisions, or our team’s decisions. The ongoing practice of disrupting and taking things to the next level must be evolving. This means we must embrace and celebrate questions and input that challenge our thought processes. There will inevitably be tension when ideas and opinions conflict, but how we navigate the tension is what matters most. The goal is to create a psychologically safe environment where people expect to have their perspectives challenged. Not only that, by someone who may look, talk, and think differently.

#4 Generosity

One of the ways leaders can minimize tension is to encourage generosity. It might sound a bit airy-fairy at first, but consider the trickle-down effect.

Also, consider times you’ve faced professional challenges and were met with generosity versus anger, retaliation, and rebuke.

  • Which approach was more effective?
  • Which approach made you feel more valuable?
  • Which approach encouraged ongoing innovation?
  • Which approach was more effective?
  • Which approach made you feel more valuable?
  • Which approach encouraged ongoing innovation?

Generosity wins every time. Next, consider the best innovators you know. Odds are, the overwhelming majority are friendly, generous, and genuine. Finally, consider that generosity can provide you with a competitive advantage. This is discussed in great detail in Greg Satell’s book Mapping Innovation: A Playbook for Mapping a Disruptive Age.

#5 Time Equity

In most cases, one or two leaders or team members dominate conversations. This might be the leader, project manager, or the assigned innovator. If the objective is to elevate your current solutions or curate new solutions—a wider range of insights is required. While the need for solo-led presentations remains, the majority of meetings should foster time equity. Each department, team, or person should be provided with time to share. This isn’t to suggest setting a timer, but to actively encourage input from everyone. Even from other departments, as multi-department collaboration has never been more essential.

#6 Team and Organizational Diversity

Homogenous hiring is something that both startups and tenured organizations continue to struggle with. We hire those who we already know, and who they know—sometimes ending up with teams that look and think just like us. For innovation, we need teams that are aligned with our organizational objectives, but whose life experience will deliver out-of-the-box ideas. In-depth research and statistics show that diverse teams are proven to be smarter, more creative, and more thorough. It’s also a misconception that you can’t have comradery and comfort with diverse teams, as we all have more in common than not. In this case, organizational objectives. If your entire team has the same outlook, you run the risk of creating an echo chamber. Minimize this risk by prioritizing diversity in:

  • Ethnicity
  • Culture and customs
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Sexual orientation
  • Social status
  • Socioeconomic background
  • Transferable skill sets
  • And more!

#7 Build Teams

Not every team member needs to be a shining star. Instead, focus your objective on hiring a diverse range of skilled specialists who enjoy working as part of a team. Yes, there will be solo projects and some of your team members may be remote—but you can build a powerful team with the right people. Continue to screen and hire for skill and organizational alignment. If you aren’t yet, aim for team collaboration as one of your areas of alignment. When solo experts are required, consider filling those gaps with third-party specialists. Looking for an Innovation Strategist? Even with teams who possess the skills and traits above, your team can have blind spots. Or you may simply be missing the research, strategies, and technology required to bring your ideas to life. If that’s the case, we invite you to reach out to the team at Idea Scale. We partner with you to accelerate innovation with a signature suite of ideation services. Let’s get started!

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