Innovation Academy Week 2 – Build a Highly Functional Team

Innovation Academy Week 2 – Build a Highly Functional TeamWelcome to week two of the Innovation Academy! Week one was full of great insights, including how to clearly define problems and generate innovative ideas on how to solve them. As you move toward choosing a solution, you’ll need a team to help you implement it, which is the focus this week.

Choosing a team can be difficult. We’ve all been on teams where one or more members simply didn’t want to be there or were disengaged. As a team leader, you may be nervous about making sure you choose both highly capable and low-maintenance people. That’s why there’s a whole week of the Academy devoted to effective team building.

Common Problems in Work Teams 

Everyone knows that true change can’t be implemented by a single person, but everyone also knows that getting a group together and asking them to pull in the same direction is an invitation to trouble. There are many symptoms of unhealthy teams. Fortunately, these can be addressed. This allows you to have capable people who are engaged and actively contributing.

Here are some of the problems you may encounter:

  • Little Sense of Ownership. Sometimes being on a team stifles your employees’ desire for autonomy, and they respond by not taking responsibility for the work of the group. Fortunately, you can prevent this by clearly assigning tasks and following up with the individuals to make sure it happens. In addition, create positive reinforcement for good work, rather than just punishment for mistakes.
  • Ineffective Reward Strategy. Speaking of positive reinforcement, when was the last time your boss truly rewarded you for a job well done? To run an effective team, there has to be a great reward strategy or strong internal motivation. Some examples of fun incentives include a great parking spot, a chance to “be the boss” for a day or a day where the team is allowed to wear flip flops. You can even award play money for great work and let the team members “purchase” from different prize options.
  • Poor Communication. Whether the team members simply don’t like each other, or they lack the communication skills needed to do well, poor communication is a frequent problem. By being a great communicator yourself, you can head off some of the issues. In addition, provide a variety of ways for team members to contribute, both in writing and verbally. That way no one will feel too intimidated to speak up.

Key Factors of a Strong Team 

Besides overcoming common problems, you want to build a team that has core competencies that are well suited to innovation within your organization. Here are some things that are important to have when building an effective team:

  • Key Stakeholders Represented. Nothing is worse than doing weeks of work only to have it shot down by the accounting department because no one thought to include them in budget discussions. Make sure your team represents key stakeholders in the innovation process.
  • Diversity. Ethnic, life experience and skill diversity are all key. Different types of people will have different perspectives and diversity will help you avoid groupthink. In addition, having a diversity of skills ensures that someone on your team is capable of almost any task.
  • Capitalize on Strengths and Expertise. Diversity doesn’t mean much if you don’t take advantage of your team’s variety of strengths. Make sure to assign tasks that best capitalize on each member’s strengths and expertise.
  • Establish Expectations and a Team Rhythm. Teams do best when they know what’s expected of them, and what they can expect as they work together. Set expectations in the first meeting. You should let your team create some of the rules, and add your own as well. In addition, you’ll want to create a rhythm for the team meetings. It should have a similar flow and duration each time.
  • Give Appropriate Support. As a team leader, you have a responsibility to stand up for your team members, make sure they have the tools and resources they need, and hold them accountable for their results. Sometimes that means helping them explain to their boss that team activities are important. Sometimes that means rewarding great work. Whatever you need to do, be sure you support your team.

By avoiding key problems and including vital elements in your team, you’ll be well on your way to having a highly functional team for your innovation project. To get started with positive reinforcement for your team,  downloading our guide Creative Ways to Incentivize Engagement.

We’re already halfway through the Innovation Academy. You’re doing great! If you believe the Academy is helpful, please share the Innovation Academy workbook with your peers. Stay tuned for Week 3 where you’ll learn how to take your winning new idea and create a robust proposal.


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