“The truth is you don’t need the best people — you need the best teams” (for successful innovation) is the key message from Harvard Business Review (HBR) article by Greg Satell. Satell is author of “Mapping Innovation: A Playbook for Navigating a Disruptive Age” where he identifies that innovation does not come from hiring mercurial, innovative, or creative people. It comes from diverse teams who are focused on solving problems in a cooperative way.
The biggest misconception is that innovation is about idea generation. Ideas are relevant if they are focused on solving a problem. I recall a grocery store challenged by a parking lot that was too small. Unable to acquire more space, they looked for ideas including building a parking ramp. The solution they found was increasing the speed of their checkout lines. Faster checkouts reduced the number of people in the store and thus reduced the number of parking spots needed. The idea came from the head cashier … not the architect.
Successful teams are focused on beating the competition by solving problems. Teams that work together cooperatively without a dominating person are the most successful. Satell’s research found that superior innovators were friendly, gracious, good listeners, and showed genuine interest in others. They work with others to try to find the one elusive insight that will crack a tough problem.
There have been a number of studies by Google, MIT, Harvard and others that all found the most important key to success is psychological safety, combined with diversity. A great analogy for this type of cooperation and teamwork are sports teams. They have shared goals, need to work together, and everyone has a role to play. You could think of innovation as the sport of doing business.
The Sport of Business
There is similarity between business teams and sports teams. Sports analogies are often used in business because sports provide simplicity and a clear framework around teamwork and outcomes that are less clear in business settings. Whether one loves sports or not … the analogies are helpful.
Change Masters Academy created The Sport of Business video series which can be very helpful in supporting discussion about how business teams can be more successful. Teams can view the videos and discuss how they can improve teamwork which will allow them to enhance innovation. They can use The Sport of Business videos with topics like:
- Creating Team Culture
- Teamwork and Trust
- The Power of Really Listening
- Keeping Emotional Competence Under Pressure
- Inspiring Others at Half-Time
- Having Fun on the Field
- The Power of Forgiveness
Team dynamics need to be built and maintained to support innovation. The most successful teams have balanced participation, shared commitment to the higher-level goals, and willingness to subordinate their silo incentives to the good of the business.
Actively looking at what is needed for team success requires thoughtful and continued attention. The 50+ videos in The Sport of Business series support ongoing discussion about team dynamics and the individual development each team member needs to optimize the team innovation.