1. To invent your organization’s future, experiment, question, sometimes fail

    April 14, 2017 by ahmed

    Blogrige1

    Originally posted on Blogrige by Dawn Marie Bailey

    Create an innovation advantage for your organization by letting go of industrial-age principles, embracing imagination, and experimenting even if you might fail, said Polly LaBarre, co-founder and director of Management Lab (MLab) and co-founder of MIX (Management Innovation eXchange). LaBarre, who delivered the 29th Annual Quest for Excellence Conference keynote presentation, said, “You cannot have some big opportunities without having some big misses. . . . Mistakes should be shared and picked apart for every last tidbit of insight.”LaBarre asked the conference audience, “How do you build the capacity for innovation and the adaptability that keeps your organization growing and thriving?” and “Are you capable of changing as fast as the world is changing? . . . The next game changer probably will come out of nowhere. Your customers, patients, stakeholders have more information, more choice, higher expectations than ever before. . . . In that context, are you constitutionally adaptable?”

    The modern industrial-age organization was not built for adaptability and innovation, she said. Instead, the assembly-line plants from years ago were designed “to maximize standardization, specialization, predictability, and control,” said LaBarre, adding that the business model was to “get flesh and blood human beings to become widget-producing robots.”

    “All of the practices and systems that we have built and embedded in our organizations [including] budgeting, performance review, ROI calculations, inventory. . . . All of those things were invented over a century ago to routinize the nonroutine,” said LaBarre; “When [today’s] challenge is for every organization to become ever-more adaptable, ever-more innovative, ever-more inspiring and engaging, those principles don’t serve us well. There’s no competitive advantage left. . . . We can’t solve the new problems with the old principles.”

    Innovation

    LaBarre said that innovation in today’s organizations tends to get compartmentalized if it is not embedded in every activity, every function. “As a result, the 90% of people who do not have a formal innovation role, think of innovation as someone else’s job. And those companies then end up commercializing and capturing just a tiny potential of their people and their organizations,” she said.

    The efficiency principles of the industrial age are still critical and necessary, LaBarre said, but to “transcend the inevitable tradeoffs of discipline without the cost and the drag on agility . . . and the crushing of human initiatives,” organizations should also consider pro-innovation principles such as aspiration, experimentation, diversity, freedom, and openness. She illustrated several real organizations who have embedded such principles and asked the audience to consider, “What kind of sustaining advantage can innovation bring?”

    The first tip for our organizations, LaBarre said, is to expand autonomy. “Control [of people, information, deviation from the norm] is the wrong design when you want to unleash people’s best imagination, initiative, passion–the human gifts that are in so much demand today but which cannot be commanded or controlled into existence.”

    Freedom

    LaBarre pointed out that we’ve all experience a huge expansion of freedom in our personal lives, especially with our ability to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world. “We can challenge, speak up, have a voice in the world, but the workplace lags so far behind,” she said, adding that in their personal lives, people can buy houses, cars, etc., but in the workplace, they may not have the authority to purchase a desk chair.

    She asked the audience to consider, in their organizations, “Who does the thinking and who does the doing?” She described freedom as giving employees more opportunities and more channels to have meaningful roles.

    She shared with the audience that she has traveled around the world looking for organizations that have reinvented their management models, “swapping out industrial bureaucratic DNA for pro-innovation and pro-adaptability.” In some of these companies, LaBarre said she found employees with total autonomy, which is balanced by extensive accountability, especially by coworkers who, for example, conduct each other’s performance reviews. These organizations are growing their leadership capacity, she said.

    LaBarre spoke of the “latent creative potential” of employees and cultures of collaboration. Invite everyone to be part of the strategic and creative realm, she suggested. In one organization she visited, LaBarre said she found hundreds of “communities of passion” that work on strategic priorities and local problems, and resolve issues must faster than they could under a standard corporate model.

    “Design systems and practices for more headroom and elbow room,” she said, “so people can operate outside of their spheres. . . . People can find natural collaborators, pursue their passions, [find] the slack [they] need for trying new things, for experimenting, and for taking risks.”

    Experimentation

    “If you want to build innovative, adaptive capacity, there is no more powerful leverage than experimentation,” said LaBarre.

    How life itself has flourished is a perfect example of experimentation, according to LaBarre. “Life has become ever more capable and complex in the process without a CEO, SVP, or strategic plan at the helm,” she said. “Evolutionary progress . . . is a product of rampant experimentation. Mutations are mistakes. Let me put it another way, if life was run by Six Sigma, we would all still be slime.”

    LaBarre said experimentation is about cycling through ideas, testing assumptions, getting feedback, discarding what isn’t working, and building on what is. “It’s a strategy for measuring your insights,” she said.

    Organizations should develop the facility to fail in order to learn, because in the words of Pixar Animation Studios, according to LaBarre, “Pain is temporary. Suck is forever.” Or, in other words, she said, Pixar understands that “if you are going to try new things, you’re going to have errors” and that’s how you learn.

    Questions

    To truly build an innovation capability at your organization, “Ask more questions than you give answers,” she said. “If you’re open, curious, you can surface more possibilities. As a leader, craft stretch questions. . . . Invest as much in what could be as what is. . . . Walk in stupid. . . . Practice the innocence of children to gain fresh eyes to innovation.”

    She encouraged the audience to question every orthodoxy in their industries and to hack every process to imbue it with innovation principles. “Questions that no one has asked before spawn innovative answers that no one has sought before,” LaBarre said, adding “invite the subversive in.”

    Innovation Panel

    To further explore innovation, senior leaders from the four 2016 Baldrige Award recipients joined LaBarre on stage. They talked about how they define innovation and how they equip people to handle it.

    Roger Arciniega, CEO of Momentum, said, “Culture is most important. You need a structure for innovations to break through. A big barrier is employees not wanting to be associated with failure,” adding the importance of not having a “gotcha” mentality.

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    The health care senior leaders on stage, Maryruth Butler, executive director of Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation Center – Mountain Valley, and Malisha Patel, vice president of operations at Memorial Hermann Sugar Land, discussed how to stimulate innovation and still ensure patient safety.

    Don Chalmers Ford’s Andy Strebe, director of fixed operations, said innovation sometimes means being open to ideas that make you uncomfortable. The leaders also talked about getting out of the way of employees’ ideas, integrating work processes with action plans, looking for innovation in the supply chain, simplifying innovation, trusting employees, and putting down your “pivot foot” (i.e., practicing values-based innovation).


  2. An exploration of innovation: An organization’s only insurance against irrelevance

    March 17, 2017 by ahmed

     

    Originally posted on Blogrige by Dawn Marie Bailey

    Prepare for an inspiring journey is the message for audience members of the upcoming 29th Annual Quest for Excellence Conference, as they listen to keynote presenter Polly LaBarre, co-founder and director of Management Lab (MLab) and co-founder of MIX (Management Innovation eXchange).Addressing some probing questions-such as “How do you create a DNA-deep, sustaining capacity for innovation?” “What does it mean to be a leader in a creative, connected, disruptive world?” and “How do you create organizations that unleash rather than squash human potential?”-LaBarre will reveal practical, high-impact ways to innovate, adapt, and succeed, redefining how leadership, change, innovation, collaboration, employee engagement, organizational culture, accountability, and disruptive strategy are done.

    Through a virtual interview, I asked some of my own questions of LaBarre, who is also co-author of Mavericks at Work and founding member of Fast Company.

    Your website says you have a passion for “framing the big questions that will rule the future of business.” Can you provide some of those questions?

    The first big question is How do you create a DNA-deep, sustaining capacity for innovation?

    You’d be hard pressed to meet a CEO or a leader today who doesn’t put innovation at the top of the agenda. And yet, how many organizations have devoted the energy and resources it takes to systematically build innovation into the values, processes, and practices that rule everyday activity and behavior? Not many. According to a recent McKinsey & Co. study, just 6 percent of leaders are satisfied with their company’s innovation performance. What gives?

    That disconnect isn’t due to lack of human ingenuity or resources. It’s a product of organizational DNA. Productivity, predictability, and alignment are embedded in the marrow of our management systems. Experimentation, risk-taking, and variety are the enemy of the efficiency machine that is the “modern” corporation. Of course, it’s variety (and the daring to be different) that produces game-changing innovation. If you want to develop a sustaining capacity for innovation, think about how do we make our management systems and practices enablers and catalysts of innovation (rather than impediments to it)? Put another way, how do we plan and prioritize, define roles and structures, allocate resources, measure and evaluate, equip and reward people, and develop new products to support innovation?

    For instance, you might ask yourself:

    • How might we create more slack and support for the pursuit of new things?
    • Could we re-think how we design work to cultivate more entrepreneurial energy?
    • What could we change in the way we evaluate leaders to cultivate more experimentation?
    • Could we open up our product development process to involve more stakeholders?
    • What market-based approach could we imagine to evaluate and fund new ideas?

    The answer to every one of those questions is what I call a “management hack”—an alternative to conventional management practice designed to uproot bureaucracy and cultivate innovation and adaptability.

    A second big question for the future: What does it mean to be a leader in a creative, connected, disruptive world?

    We live in a world where leadership, power, and influence are less about “where you sit” and more about “what you can do.” The most compelling leaders understand that authority is not bestowed by a title but is rather a currency you earn (and must keep earning) from your peers. The most effective individuals are constantly striving to maximize their ratio of accomplishment over authority.

    In that context, what is the work of leadership today? How do you conduct yourself as a leader day in and day out to keep yourself and your team moving with the times? A short course in 21st century leadership would probe the following:

    • Are you learning as fast as the world is changing? The imperative today is to remain open and hungry when it comes to discovering and experimenting with new ideas and new methods—to cultivate a first-person experience with the future.
    • Do you ask more questions than you give answers? This is a good one for anyone in a position of authority—parents and leaders alike. Questions offer up a powerful advantage in a world of expanding complexity and intense change—they help you attract more possibilities, surface more perspectives, and enlist more support to your cause. It’s not easy to get in the habit of asking questions in a world that values knowledge and mastery. If you’re having trouble, take your lead from a toddler and start asking: Why? Why not? What if?
    • Are you unreasonable enough? Turns out that all change is against the rules. Creativity is fundamentally subversive in nature. It’s the leader’s job to develop a contrarian point of view, invite dissent, and take an activist role in questioning and devising alternatives to the status quo. The most productive rebels aren’t out to make trouble—but to make genuine progress in the world.

    A third big question: How do you create organizations that unleash rather than squash human potential?

    One of the most important question for any leader today is How do we create a work environment that inspires exceptional contribution and merits an outpouring of passion, imagination, and initiative? It doesn’t matter if you are part of a giant, global company or a local chapter of a nonprofit, the most important leverage you can get when it comes to building a vibrant and sustainable organization is the human edge. What are you doing to unleash each person’s human gifts—creativity, zeal, resourcefulness?

    The most effective and inspiring leaders today understand that there is no tradeoff between creativity and discipline, between inventing the future and “turning the crank.” Instead, they are relentlessly clever when it comes to creating mechanisms for individuals to express themselves, to contribute, and to hold each other accountable at the same time.

    A final big question to consider: Are you different enough to make a difference?

    More than ever, the value you create is a function of the values you assert as an organization. Organizations animated by a deeply felt and widely shared sense of purpose are breeding grounds for passion—the ultimate multiplier of human effort.

    At a time when customers are contending with a seemingly limitless universe of urgent and compelling alternatives and demands on their time, how do you stand out? This isn’t an exercise in branding so much as a process of excavating, sharpening, and sharing a powerful sense of purpose. What do you stand for? What are you against? How do you draw that line in the sand? How do you keep sharpening the set of ideas in every interaction with your people and your customers?

    Two helpful questions to keep asking yourselves as leaders and as a larger team: What ideas are you fighting for? And, are you really who you say you are?

    Why is the focus on innovation so important to a business? Is that importance still true for a nonprofit, a health care organization, a school?

    Innovation is the only insurance against irrelevance in a world of unrelenting change. It’s the only antidote to the margin-crushing impact of global competition. It’s the only defense against younger, hungrier industry insurgents. It’s the only guarantee of continued customer loyalty.

    And it’s just as crucial for nonprofits, health care organizations, and even schools. Why? Every organization and every leader today is contending with a rapidly changing reality—wave after wave of disruptive technology, increasing interdependence of our institutions, social and environmental challenges, and the escalating demands of a variety of stakeholders. Organizations operate within the toughest constraints, and most need to tap into the full potential of their people to build a sustaining capacity to innovate and adapt. One of the most cost-effective, risk-bound, and fast ways to start to build your innovation muscles is to experiment with experimentation. How many options can you generate, quickly test, and iterate on? How many people can you involve across the organization in creating its future?


  3. Is innovation more about people or process?

    November 2, 2016 by ahmed

    innovation-process

    Originally posted on HBR by Andrea Ovans

    What’s more critical to producing a breakthrough innovation – finding creative people or finding creative ideas? This is a question Pixar head Ed Catmull has asked a great many people, and he says they tend to be pretty much split on it 50/50.

    This astonished Catmull. Fresh off eight blockbuster successes in a row in 2008, he was arguing in his article “How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity” that people exaggerate the importance of the initial idea, whereas, as he put it simply, “talent is rare.”

    A trip through HBR’s archives shows that he’s hardly alone in this view. Bernard Arnault, for instance, the executive chairman of luxury goods maker LVMH, was clearly in the same frame of mind when we caught up with him in a 2001 HBR interview. “Our whole business is based on giving our artists and designers complete freedom to invent without limits,” he said, in describing his role in managing the likes of Dior’s top designer, John Galliano (who was in the midst of marketing a dress made from newspaper) and Vuitton’s Marc Jacobs (who came up with Vuitton’s signature graffiti handbag design).

    Into the people camp also falls Michael Schrage, who in the same year wrote a particularly thoughtful account of IDEO, “Playing Around with Brainstorming,” one of the first of many articles on design thinking that have graced the pages of HBR, and still one of the shrewdest. Writing in response to the publication that year of IDEO cofounder David Kelley’s The Art of Innovation, Schrage argues that IDEO’s ability to innovate lies not so much in the methodologies of brainstorming, hot teams, and rapid prototyping that Kelley describes but in its culture. It is the intensity of its people’s passion for innovation that animates IDEOs processes, he contends, forming a culture that’s “not typical, and not easy to emulate.”

    Perhaps it’s not surprising that companies full of motion picture, fashion, and product designers should feel comfortable with the notion that innovation depends on talent. Or that this approach doesn’t sit well with the more engineering-oriented innovation thinkers whose work forms a parallel stream of thinking in HBR (and perhaps represent the other half of the crowd in Catmull’s polls).

    Let’s call this the “In my ideal world, great ideas are generated through a process anyone can follow” camp. At the most technical end, arguably, is Intel, whose innovation process, based on the precise exchange of information, is described in meticulous detail by Steven Eppinger in “Innovation at the Speed of Information.”

    The goal of many thinkers in this camp is to turn the practice of innovation into something closer to a production process than a creative process precisely to produce “more ideas – better ideas!” as Robert Sutton and Andrew Hargadon put it in “Building an Innovation Factory.”

    Sutton and Hargadon bring useful detail to what might seem like a generic process: start with good ideas from lots of sources, discuss them, play with them, imagine new uses for old ideas, and turn promising concepts into real products, services, and business models. Stefan Thomke describes Bank of America’s process for inventing new service offerings in similarly useful detail in “R&D Comes to Services,” in which a set of bank branches serve as a test bed for creative ideas that was “large enough to support a wide range of experiments but small enough to limit the risks to the business.”

    Lego has used the systems approach to great effect; P&G has arguably elevated the factory approach to its most elaborate. Coming something of a full circle, Intuit has famously instituted a process to teach everyone to think as creatively as the talented professionals of Pixar, Dior, and IDEO. Vividly described by Roger Martin in “The Innovation Catalysts,” this process requires as much grit and persistence as systems thinking, bringing to mind Schrage’s warning that even systematically generated design cultures are hard to pull off.

    An uncomfortable sense that some of these innovation processes are as hard to emulate as the innovation cultures that depend on rare talent recently led Scott Anthony to think about the most minimal steps an organization that lacked both the resources of a P&G and the creative genius of a John Galliano could take to create a reliable path to innovation. The four steps he and his colleagues lay out in “Build an Innovation Engine in 90 Days” don’t promise to turn your company into a P&G overnight. But even here, while the steps may be minimal, they are not all that simple. The first requires that top managers understand and explicitly determine how innovation fits within the larger corporate strategy. The second that they select a few areas to explore that fit with what a substantial number of potential customers really need and what the company is uniquely positioned to deliver. Then it’s time to appoint a small innovation team and assign executive sponsors to guide them.

    To help in this effort, particularly for small companies that may be new to innovation, Anthony distills a great deal of knowledge from highly experienced innovators into a nicely practical assessment both the team and their sponsors can use to answer what is perhaps the most fundamental question of all — “Should we pursue this new project?” – and work out whether (or not) they’re on the right track.

    In the end, the answer to the people or process question is probably “both”: people matter; process matters. Talented people can be hobbled by poor processes; hesitant people can be uplifted by smart processes. In the best of all possible worlds, extraordinary people pursue innovative ideas through processes that are perfectly suited to their talents. In the real world, less-than-perfect people are wise to use all the help they can get.


  4. Eight powerful ways to generate great ideas

    September 10, 2016 by ahmed

     

    Originally posted on Innovation Resource by Robert B. Tucker

    For most of my professional life, I’ve studied the creative habits of highly successful innovators and the organizations they lead. Turns out there’s wide variance in how these individuals achieve greatness. A common trait emerges in how they approach idea generation. Virtually every one of them at some point devised a conscious process to stimulate the input, throughput and output of ideas on a constant basis. They use a series of routines, habits, and techniques to keep their “idea factories” operating at peak performance levels day in and day out.

    Check out their methods below to generate a breakthrough process of your own:

    1. Identify what gets your creative juices flowing. As an innovation speaker and coach, I’m in front of clients and audiences on a weekly basis. I use these occasions to do quick surveys, and whenever possible in-depth interviews to supplement the more quantitative research we also do. For example: my recent research indicates that the typical manager today needs three to four times as many ideas as did their counterpart a decade ago. Another finding: fifteen to twenty percent of us hatch our best ideas in the middle of the night. For others, taking a shower or driving is another frequent idea-stimulant. Suggestion: If there’s a time of day when you do your best thinking, plan for it. Make it part of your routine. If there’s a particular spot in your home or office that gets your creative juices flowing —be it the kitchen table or the bathtub or an obscure conference room– set aside time to sit quietly in that space, alone and free of noise and distraction.

    2. Inspect your idea factory frequently. What does your “things to do” list reveal about the types of ideas you’re working on just now? Are most of them tactical– pick up the dry cleaning, process the payroll, do the budget, etc. — or are there also some big picture ideas on your radar as well? If your big ideas list is nonexistent, it may be time to identify larger goals and projects. How about your “bucket list” – places you want to see before you “kick the bucket.” And goals for where you want to be one year, three years, and ten years out. Suggestion: start paying closer attention to all your ideas, regardless of category. And regularly inspect, prioritize, sort, eliminate and retool your idea productivity.

    3. Download ideas the moment they occur. Silicon Valley marketing guru Regis McKenna told me about his personal process for generating ideas. Whether attending board meetings, relaxing with his family, or conversing with colleagues, he takes along a moleskin idea notebook and jots down ideas as they occur. “You’re sitting there in that meeting, and something is said that relates to something else you’re working on, and boom – you get an idea. I’m always in this mode of looking for better ways of doing things.” Innovators like McKenna are always alert – always ready to capture ideas. They pounce. They’re like vacuum cleaners. Suggestion: If you ever find yourself muttering: “I don’t need to write down that idea, I’ll remember it” take stock. It could indicate you’re not serious about taking action. Innovators know that ideation (coming up with ideas) without implementation is mere hallucination. The human mind is a great mechanism for hatching ideas. But it’s a lousy place for storing them. Download immediately.

    4. Study the personal best practices of the innovators around you. Eleanor Roosevelt once commented that “small minds talk about people, and average minds talk about events. Great minds discuss ideas.” If you’re lucky to have even one person in your life that loves to discuss ideas, you are blessed. Because the greats know that the people in our lives can often be the catalysts to think bigger. There’s got to be humility mixed with courage and persistence. Wayne Silby, founder of Thee Calvert Group, and originator of the financial services industry’s first social investment fund, once told me: “I spend a lot of my time making sure people recognize that I come up with ideas, that some of them are good. And most of them are bad. What we have to do together as a management team is to sort out the good ones from the bad ones.”

    5. Manage your mental environment. Harvard professor Teresa Amabile is famous for her studies of creativity in the workplace. Her research shows that people are most likely to have new ideas on days when they feel happy, and that emotional upset is a creativity killer. “Of all the events that engage people at work,” reports Amabile, “the single most important driver by far is not bonuses or rewards, but simply feelings that ‘I’m making progress’ in the projects I’m working on.” When we’re around negative people, or dealing with situations fraught with negative emotion, creativity is blocked. So take charge of your creative environment. Avoid negative people as much as possible, or meet with them later in the day. Regroup from such encounters and make an effort to be with people in your life that stimulate your Opportunity Mindset.

    6. Pay attention to the happy accidents in your life. One way to hatch brilliant ideas is simply to pay more attention to serendipitous events in your life. When researcher Jeannette Garcia made a mixing error in her IBM lab in San Jose, California, she returned to find a hard white plastic that has incredible new properties. Garcia had inadvertently discovered a new family of advanced materials. These polymers are light and strong and can be easily reformed to make products recyclable, so they have great commercial promise. A surprisingly large number of inventions are the result of “happy accidents” including: Velcro, Nutrasweet, Viagra, Scotchgaard, FedEx, Silly Putty, and many others. What about the happy accidents in your life? For example: You chat with an Uber driver about a project you’re working on, and voila, the conversation shifts your perspective. You happen upon data that shows surprisingly strong sales of a particular product your company sells: that too is a happy accident. But if we’re not paying attention and open to new possibilities, we can get so busy working our “things to do today” lists that we overlook the serendipitous opportunities.

    7. Look for ideas by wandering around, asking questions. In the mid-1980s, I interviewed the legendary Bill Gore, founder of W.L. Gore and Associates, and consistently one of the most innovative companies in the world. Bill told me about his favorite method of generating ideas. “I walk through the plant and I see a piece of equipment that’s being built in the shop,” Gore explained. “I inquire about how it’s designed. And I scratch my head and say, ‘You know, it would be so much easier, so much better if it could be done this way instead of that way. Why don’t we do it that way?’” Gore’s habit of “managing by walking around” and asking questions might seem heavy-handed. But his team loved him for it. He took an interest in their work and wasn’t afraid to challenge their approach.

    8. Take a Doug Day. Doug Greene was the founder of New Hope Natural Media, a pioneer in the natural and organic foods industry and one of the fastest growing companies in America. Here’s how Doug described his favorite method of generating ideas to me in an interview: “Once a month I schedule what I refer to as a Doug Day. I create a block of time where I have absolutely nothing to do: no appointments. I’ll go to a different environment. I’ll sit and draw or whatever my first instincts are to do. I think about my team. I think about my level of passion and what’s going on with my energy level. I think about opportunities. And I have to say that if I hadn’t taken those Doug Days since I started the company, I wouldn’t have had nearly the success that we’ve enjoyed, and I wouldn’t have had the quality of life.” Imagine how refreshed and rejuvenated you would feel, and how many ideas you might come up with, if you allowed yourself to take a Doug Day.


  5. Seven fundamentals of a winning innovation team

    August 19, 2016 by ahmed

     

    Originally posted on The Innovation Resource by Robert Tucker

    Sooner or later, you’re going to be asked to lead an innovation team. This will be your time to shine, if you’re up to the challenge. The distinguishing aspect of leading a special purpose team is that you’re not in control, you can only influence behavior. You’re tasked with figuring out how to do something new, so you and your mates are going on a learning journey. So what you do in the formative stages will greatly impact the team’s chances of success. Follow these seven suggestions to guide your success:

    1. Keep team size small, even for big projects. In Silicon Valley, the “pizza rule” has taken hold. If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, your team is too big. Lots of research supports this notion. Once a group gets beyond five to seven people, productivity and effectiveness begin to decline. Communication becomes cumbersome. Managing becomes a pain. Players begin to disengage, and introverts withdraw. When it comes to team size, less is more.

    2. Pay attention to group chemistry and emotions. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon point to three factors that make a team highly functioning. 1) Members contributed equally to the team’s discussions, rather than letting one or two people dominate; 2) Members were better at reading complex emotional states; and 3) Teams with more women outperform teams with more men. The emotional component – how we feel when we are engaged with a team – truly matters but is all too often never discussed. Pay attention to how the people you’re inviting onto your team relate to others. Assess human factors like trust, empathy, ability to resolve conflict, and seek and offer forgiveness. Acknowledge people’s selfless behavior and achievements. Always give credit to your team rather than take credit yourself, and practice empathy at all times.

    3. Calculate people’s Teamwork Factor. Will Wright, developer of The Sims, Spore and other best-selling computer games, analyzes what he calls a person’s teamwork factor. “There is a matter of, how good is this person times their teamwork factor,” Wright told interviewer Adam Bryant. “You can have a great person who doesn’t really work well on the team, and they’re a net loss. You can have somebody who is not that great but they are really very good glue, and [they] could be a net gain.” Team members Wright considers “glue,” share information effectively, motivate and improve morale, and help out when somebody gets stuck. Be aware of not only the needed skill sets, but who works well together and who does not.

    4. Don’t go overboard with diversity. Can too much diversity be a detriment to team chemistry? Researchers at Wharton think so. Too much diversity of “mental models” can be a drag on forward progress, say professors Klein and Lim. If members of a team have a “shared, organized understanding and mental representation of knowledge” about the nature of the challenge, it can enhance coordination and effectiveness when the task at hand is complex, unpredictable, urgent and novel. The researchers concluded that team member who share common models can save time because they share a common body of knowledge.

    5. Establish a group process. Nancy Tennant, who led an amazingly successful innovation initiative at Whirlpool some years ago, once told me about joining an ad hoc governmental team tasked with solving a very big problem. “They brought a group of people together from all over the world to help them brainstorm. They spent a lot of money, put us in a room and said ‘think hard.’ But we didn’t know each other. We didn’t have a group process. And we just couldn’t do it.” A group without a process is like a ship without a rudder. It will have a harder time innovating. Establish team rules at the outset. Address how you’ll treat each other, how you’ll respect each other, and articulate how much of time each member is committing to the team. Effective teams establish clear goals and rules at the outset, and hold each other accountable.

    6. Pay attention to what is going on outside the team. Since your dedicated team is charged with getting something new accomplished, it is natural to think of it as the “innovation team.” But doing so leads those not part of the team wondering how the project will effect them, and whether they support or oppose the team’s challenge. You must be careful to begin building buy-in for your efforts from the very beginning. Day to day managers see innovation teams as a threat or a special case that should be ignored. Teams appointed by the CEO can be seen as the ‘CEO’s pet project’ leaving a chance for them to be condemned or subtly derailed. Team leaders and members must spend as much time working in the external environment as working in their team. Be sure to build trust and open communication with the rest of the organization.

    7. Pay attention to the 3Rs of innovation: Result, Reputation, and Residuals. What motivates people over the long haul is not money, but intrinsic rewards. Harvard’s Teresa Amabile’s research shows that feelings of accomplishment, that we are making progress, doing important work are the biggest motivators. As the team leader, keep the three Rs in mind: 1) Result. If you hit your target, you’ll have another accomplishment on your track record; 2) Reputation: your status in the organization rises. Senior management will be delighted. Colleagues will talk you up, praise your contribution, and invite you to join future projects. 3) Residuals: the lasting payout of participating in a successful collaborative team is that you get to see your “product” being used by customers, both internal and external. You know you’ve made a difference, solved a problem, or created an opportunity for the organization, your team, and most of all yourself.