Innovation Democratization: How to Get the Most Out of Your Team - Vistage Executive Street Blog

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Innovation Democratization: How to Get the Most Out of Your Team

One of the first steps of achieving Innovation in the new product development process is to assemble a team. While the organization’s leader may be tempted to call in “the usual suspects”, people with a history of success in that field, it is important at this point to include fresh faces in the group. Dr. Harlan Weisman, chief science and technology officer of Medical Devices & Diagnostics at Johnson & Johnson suggests connecting people who wouldn’t normally work together* – people from different business groups, backgrounds, and skill sets. Creating a diverse environment of both men and women from different geographic regions, ethnic groups, age groups, and from a variety of functions will offer greater insight. This type of crowdsourcing opens the arena for new ideas within the organization.

After all, the path to Innovation is not always linear. It needs different perspectives working together to achieve the end goal. In fact, the greater the Innovation, the more necessary it is to include fresh perspectives. A team of “usual suspects”, experts in their field driven by past successes, may be able to take a product or service to the next level and create an incremental benefit. However, to create true ground-breaking “disruptive technology”, the process must start from a blank slate.

Once the Innovation champion assembles a team of diverse people from all levels and business backgrounds, it is key to establish trust. Only an environment that allows openness and risk-taking can produce favorable results. With the right amount of patience and shepherding, the Innovation leader can break down barriers and guide the conversation to allow for everybody’s input.

Here are some tips for the Innovation leader:

  1. Trust people before they earn your precious trust; and not make your trust contingent upon proving loyalty to your ideas alone.
  2. Devise a way to create a “safe haven” environment to coax the best out of the quieter members of the group; there will be those who have great ideas but will be reticent about piping up.
  3. Open dialogues and collaborative relationships with local business groups, suppliers, customers, and universities.

Democratization cuts across traditional methods and produces an environment ripe for Innovation. For more tips, *see “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival.”

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