Innovation is rarely achieved by a single individual alone. More often, true disruption is the result of groups or teams of passionate people. All united around a singular cause or vision. All bringing unique skills to make change happen. This includes unleashing the team-wide creativity needed to innovate, bringing together your company’s IT teams and innovators, and ensuring you have the right data analytics experts in-house.
A recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article takes an interesting look at the role of teams in achieving innovation, and specifically why seemingly capable and talented groups of people end up failing within larger organizations. In short, the article concludes that “product/function organizational structure” or corporate rigidity is a core reason why many innovation projects fall short. “This structure works in well-understood environments, where maximizing delivery of a product or service is the goal, but transformative projects require the organization to return to a more malleable state,” according to the HBR article.
To that end, a requirement for success is building “transformation-capable” teams that feature open-minded, high performers. Each with unique skills, but all with the ability to be focused, agile and optimistic. “Ultimately, not all top-performing employees are equipped for this,” according to the article.
The HBR article goes on to offer the capabilities to “search for and cultivate” to help build transformative teams. The traits, which are featured in the recently released book titled, Leading Transformation: How to Take Charge of Your Company’s Future, include:
- Negative capability: being comfortable with uncertainty: According to the HBR article, negative capability enables teams to explore and be curious, while remaining focused on the end goal or objective—even if success is a long way off. Team members with negative capability also tend to remain more open to new and evolving outcomes throughout the process versus jumping to conclusions too early.
- Chaos pilots: leading and executing in unfamiliar territory: “Chaos pilots are people who can creatively lead a project through uncertainty,” according to the article. Chaos pilots typically possess negative capability, but they also bring other valuable skills, including the ability to create structure, take action, and drive meaningful change over personal gain.
- Divergent thinking, convergent action, and influential communication: According to the HBR article, there are three neuropsychological traits of transformative teams. They include divergent thinking, convergent action, and influential communication, and they all play a critical role in achieving innovation success. “While many individuals hold one or two of these skills, finding a person with all three is more challenging, yet optimal,” according to the article.
If you’d like to learn more, including examples and actions you can take to build an effective innovation team, read the complete HBR article.