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The innovation team

In the previous delivery I discussed the role of the Corporate Innovation Manager, what she does and the different approaches she can take to make innovation work in the organisation.  I concluded with a statement that this person cannot get innovation going as the Lone Ranger and that in order to be successful and to get the job done, this role will require the support and assistance of a proper innovation focused team.  In this article I want to discuss the roles and responsibilities of the innovation team and share some advice on how this team can hit it off and drive innovation.
Innovation Team
Whether it is assistance with spreading the innovation gospel, relieving the administration load, growing the innovation culture, taking action on ideas or just adding diversity to the thinking process, a wider team to drive the innovation programme in an organisation is absolutely essential.  In all the organisations I have worked with, without exception, innovation was a team effort.  I think it is fair to say that organisations that make innovation the responsibility of a single person, is fooling itself and is doomed for failure from the beginning.
So what exactly will the innovation team be doing? According to Tim Kastelle – who in my view really boiled it down to the essence of the innovation team – there are essentially four roles in an innovation team.  These are: 1. Information Facilitation. When you do information facilitation, you find information about innovation, and distribute it to people that are generating and executing on ideas.
This will help them figure out how to best generate and execute new ideas. In this role you can also work on developing processes and infrastructure that support all parts of the innovation process. 2. Opportunity Consultant: A person doing this will do everything that the Information Facilitation role does, but will take a more active role in selecting ideas.
This role work to ensure that the ideas that are pursued, are connect with the organisation’s overall strategy.
In this role you work on developing the best possible set of criteria for evaluating ideas, particularly for fit with strategic objectives. 3.

Opportunity Enabler: This role goes one step further – they work to connect ideas with those that have the resources to execute them. Enabling collaboration is a big part of this role. This role will also work on developing implementation plans, and trying to quantify outcomes and learnings from new initiatives. Opportunity enablers are active in supporting all steps in the innovation process – idea generation, selection, testing and diffusion. 4.
Execution Delivery: this is the most active role you can have – this is a role that doesn’t just support the innovation process, they actually undertake all the steps.
Adding to the explanation of roles of above, it goes without saying that each of these roles require different skills and expertise, so the innovation team will understandably be a very diverse group of people, but diversity is strongly advisable for the purpose of an innovation team.
With regards to being successful, the best advice I can give for an innovation team is to start off by establishing a shared vision of what the team is hoping to achieve. Painting an image of the future that the whole team buys into, feeds the team’s hunger for success while also mitigating conflict. Then set goals with metrics that the team co-creates, as teams are more likely to be committed and accountable to goals that they have set for themselves. Revisit the goals every so often as a way of reinforcing the team’s commitment to the cause.

Next Time
I have now dealt with the Innovation Manager and the Innovation Team and their roles and responsibilities in making innovation happen in the organisation.  For the organisations that have yearend in December, the planning- and budgeting cycle is now in full swing, so next time I will look at how to include innovation in the organisation’s planning cycle. There are many excellent quotes on teamwork, but this quote by Rudyard Kipling is my favourite: “For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack”.
Sources
Kastelle, T. 2011. Choosing a role for your innovation team. Online: http://timkastelle.org/blog/2011/01/choosing-a-role-for-your-innovation-team/

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