There may be a time when you need to take the lead on innovation in your organization. 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 what you do in the formative stages will greatly impact the team’s chances of 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. 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. Always give credit to your team rather than take credit yourself, and practice empathy at all times.
3. 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 members who share common models can save time because they share a common body of knowledge.
4. Establish a group process. 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.
5. Pay attention to the 3R’s of innovation: Result, Reputation and Residuals. What motivates people over the long haul is not money, but intrinsic rewards. As the team leader, keep the three R’s 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.
Source: Robert B. Tucker is a renowned global futurist and innovation keynote speaker with a client list that includes more than 200 of the Fortune 500 companies. President and founder of The Innovation Resource, Tucker is an internationally recognized pioneer in the field of innovation.
Compiled by Cassandra Johnson