Innovation is a team activity, a contact sport.
One person may have a great idea but normally the implementation of the idea requires a team. It needs a mix of skills and attributes in order to overcome all the obstacles that get in the way. In a corporate environment the people who are best at conceiving bright ideas are often not the best at making them happen.
Creativity, critical thinking, and complex problem solving are all needed for an innovation to succeed. All three of these skills are essential to developing and bringing to life a new innovation that solves a real problem and provides meaningful value.
Here are some of the key roles needed for an innovation to succeed:
Leader – The team leader has the drive, determination, managerial and motivational skills to accomplish the task.
Sponsor – A high-level executive who oversees the project and can help overcome some of the political and organisational roadblocks.
Explorer – A curious person who is constantly searching, brainstorming, reinventing, adapting and discovering. Sometimes this is also the Inventor who had the bright idea in the first place.
Judge – This person acts as the analyst. They ask tough questions and help to ground the group in reality. Sometimes this person also acts as Purser and controls the budget.
Planner – Someone needs to coordinate resources and use project planning skills to keep the show on track.
Scrounger – This person is highly effective at getting resources, improvising and making things happen.
Advocate – Someone needs to continually sell the innovation and its benefits to stakeholders. At each stage the advocate explains and promotes the concept.
Builder – the person (or people) who constructs the prototypes and continually improves them.
Many innovation projects fail because the team is unbalanced and lacks some of these players. A team full of explorers will be enthusiastic but not build much. The right mix of skills at each stage of the project is essential.
Paul is a professional keynote conference speaker and expert facilitator on innovation and lateral thinking. He helps companies improve idea generation and creative leadership. His workshops transform innovation leadership skills and generate great ideas for business issues. His recent clients include Airbus, Microsoft, Unilever, Nike, Novartis and Swarovski. He has published 30 books on lateral thinking puzzles, innovation, leadership and problem solving (with over 2 million copies sold). He also acts as link presenter at conferences and facilitator at high level meetings such as a corporate advisory board. He has acted as host or MC at Awards Dinners. Previously, he was CEO of Monactive, VP International of MathSoft and UK MD of Ashton-Tate. He recently launched a series of podcast interviews entitled Insights from Successful People.