In the Innovation and Risk Taking (part 1) I discussed risk avoidance as a reason that teams may struggle with true innovation. A common solution is to build cross functional teams to address stagnation and provide creativity. In the right context, a collaboration cocktail can be fantastic, but too often, there are massive barriers undermining likely success. I have worked with innovative teams that have been successful at leveraging risk for momentum, but I’ve also worked with teams that have allowed fear of failure to paralyze them. In this post, I’d like to lay out some paths to success for organizations seeking to innovate.

Mindset

Without the right mindset, no change can happen. As I mentioned both in Change is a MuST and Innovation and Risk Taking (Part 1), many teams tasked with innovation have a mindset that they can succeed and they will succeed because they always have. The dark side of this mindset is that high achievers can be perfectionists and scared of failure. Risk taking and fear of failure are mutually exclusive. The thing with mindset is: it can absolutely be taught, but it is the long pole in your tent. Look for a growth mindset when building your innovation team, and you’ll achieve results faster.

That doesn’t mean you should give up on folks who are high-achievers and afraid of failure…for those people, failure should be reframed as learning. This cultural shift has to start at the top, it cannot be lip service and must include rewards for those who truly learn and change based on experience. For more on mindset, I like Carol Dweck’s book Mindset and Angela Duckworth’s book Grit.

Side note: For those of you who are not just professionals but also parents, understanding growth mindset and helping your children form their own growth mindset can be a tremendous ally in raising confident, capable young adults. But, as with all things, culture starts at the top…if you have a fixed mindset while preaching growth mindset, results will be subpar.

Skillset

So, you’re building your risk-taking innovation team. Growth mindset alone isn’t enough. You need individuals who together can bring the right skills to the table. Moreover, the other members of the team need to respect that all the players are different, but each skill has value. Particularly for truly innovative products, if you have deep technical skills and experience, but not an outward facing or probing skillset, you’re likely to deliver incremental rather than exponential change. What I have found that on teams where individuals have a growth mindset, respect for complementary skillsets is naturally high. On teams with fixed mindsets, the concept that different skills bring additive value is a challenge to individual intelligence and the result is a lack of trust.

To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.

African proverb

What are some skills that an innovative team should have?

  • Technical (engineering)
  • User-centered (i.e., clinical for healthcare)
  • Commercial (building demand and getting orders)
  • Operational (getting products into service and servicing)
  • Financial
  • Regulatory (as needed)

Too often, innovative teams focus on the technical challenges at the expense of the subsequent hurdles that will be created for the organization and the customer if the whole solution is hard to implement. This miss can cause a resource drain on the organization, erode profitability and also hamper future innovation. All of the above skills can be represented by a handful of individuals. I heard an Amazon product development leader once say, “if you have a team that needs more than 2 pizzas for lunch, your innovation team is too large!”

In Part 3, I’ll discuss some tools for you to use to ensure that your team’s mindset and skillset are put to good use. Make sure you follow the LIDOFY page on LinkedIn to get blog updates!

Have you stumbled and need help getting back on track? Could you use an innovation coach who has experienced a wide variety of healthcare technology launches and creatively solved sticky problems? Let’s talk!