What are SLAM Teams?

slam teamsAt IdeaScale’s Open Nation this year, one of our speakers addressed the challenge of managing an innovation pipeline with only one dedicated resource: herself. Obviously, when you work at an organization with over 20,000 employees, the inflow of ideas can be difficult to manage on your own, but Alison Meyerstein has found a way to marshal part-time resources to her cause in the form of a breakthrough innovation she calls “SLAM Teams.”

Meyerstein first got the idea when she attended a conference and heard about the concept of “Responsive Ways of Working” pioneered by PepsiCo. Which views any work we do: from a list of ideas to a presentation we create is shareable within our organization. Which means we’re all charged with sharing or improving it and to do that, this speaker suggested building SLAM Teams. So what are SLAM Teams? They are self-organizing, lean, autonomous, and multidisciplinary. Basically, the people who are closest to the problem can work on solving it, but they have to be small enough and have enough freedom to function to test ideas and learn more about their potential.

Now when a promising idea comes in, Alison puts together a small SLAM team who can look at that idea to validate and define a problem and further explore concepts in order to build an MVP and business case. If the SLAM team can make an adequate business case, then that idea can go to a product management team who will scale it out for large scale implementation.

But how does Alison incentivize people to join her SLAM team? Well, a lot of the time, if they’re close to the problem then they’re invested in the solution, but joining a SLAM team also has an added benefit of getting employees more professional development opportunities by exposing them to other parts of the business. It has even more legs if someone in leadership has bought into the concept and is validating it to the community at large.

Have you tried SLAM teams in your innovation community? To learn more from top innovators, view and download the presentations from Open Nation 2018 here.

For more innovation inspiration, check out these Five Innovations that Changed the World.

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