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Discussion Starter #1
Has anyone been on or created an innovation team? I've been tasked with starting one at work, but I've never been on one. The idea is that it would be a cross-departmental group, and the "innovations" would include product, process and operational changes, large and small. My company doesn't really have a culture of change and innovation, so this might be a difficult sell. My first plan of action is to go to the MD and get his (active and explicit) support, followed by asking some of the more creative open-minded people to join.

Basically, if anyone has any experience our wisdom to share, I would greatly appreciate it.
 

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Who is "the MD"?

I was on a committee like this once and it was brutal because the head of the committee had his own ideas and then he just wanted to have meetings to build support for his ideas. He would say, "new ideas are welcome", but anyone who gave truly new ideas that were outside of what he was trying to accomplish, he would shoot them down. You can't have an effective innovation team if the people on the team are not innovators. That's just common sense. So, you must get people on your committee that are true innovators and then one (or more) of you is going to have to step up and take the lead in pushing the new innovations aggressively with the powers that be in the larger organization, even if it's not your strength to do so. Don't hand off the task to someone who will short-circuit the innovation in favor of following protocol, making bosses happy, getting their name on the innovation, etc. Nobody will go to bat for a cause they believe in...better than you...or better than the person who actually believes in it. The quickest way to kill innovation is to get a bunch of people together who are "goal oriented" and "in a hurry to come to a decision", etc. You have to get people together who will enjoy sitting down and thinking on things in an open-ended manner, contemplating (with no pressure to hurry up). Creativity is about brainstorming, tossing ideas across the table at each other. And also, allow for "individual time" for the introverts. Introverts don't necessarily do their best thinking "in group think". They need to have meetings, brainstorm, and then go home and brainstorm some more on their own. Then they'll report back to you tomorrow or the following week on some really cool things they've thought of.

1. Set up the team with truly innovative, creative people.
2. And then let those people do what they do best...innovate! Play to their strengths as individuals rather than "adhering to normal protocol", etc.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the reply. The MD is the managing director, he's the most senior person on site. He reports to a mostly off-site vise president. The MD is a good guy, although I have no idea how he would respond to this idea, particularly since I am not a manager.

I guess I'm in a lucky situation in that the team does not exist yet. If I can get the MD's support (I believe that this will absolutely not work without senior management support) and I can pick the right people, then hopefully we won't have to spend all of our time fighting the paper-pushers.

Good idea about not forcing stuff and allowing people time to think about things by themselves. I'll have to make sure the people on the team are OK with letting stuff just hang sometimes. It would be good if I can get this off the ground. Might actually make work interesting again.
 

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This video was posted in the INTP forum in the "Money" thread. The video reminded me of this thread too because, if you watch the full video, he really starts to touch on some of the key aspects of innovation. I.e., people come up with the best ideas when they don't have deadines, when they're free to "do whatever they want", when they are able to manage themselves and their own time, etc. Innovation usually doesn't happen under strict deadlines or when you have to meet "benchmarks" or when you have to be somewhere at very specific hours (i.e., 9 to 5), or even when you're pressured to make a living to pay the bills. Innovation happens when you're free from restrictions, free to be a dreamer. You cannot "force" innovation. You cannot fit it in a box, or prescribe a specific model for how it must be accomplished. It's about giving people free reign.

 

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That's a great video. Wish every manager could see that and actually take it to heart.

I had a casual chat with the MD about this and he was interested. He asked for a written proposal, so now I'm working on condensing my thoughts (very very many!) into a few paragraphs.

Thanks for all your thoughts.
 

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Never been on an innovation team, but there might be some sort of concepts you can borrow from other methodologies. It seems informal so you don't have to follow them exactly, but pull the useful concepts...

ITIL for example is how to continuously improve IT services for a firm.

It goes through a process like:

Strategy > Design > Transition > Operate > Improve

I would talk/consult with major stakeholders to find their complaints, problems, etc. I would give surveys to lower level staff and see if they have any gems of ideas that management is blind to or overlooks. Brainstorm to generate some ideas for improvement, come up with financial models, business cases, etc. Coordinate the activities and resources needed to make the change. Go through the actual change (maybe using some sort of project management lifecycle), etc. Change Management concepts to prevent any backlash of any unwanted changes. Finally, monitor changes and existing structures with some sort of methodology (six sigma).
 

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Yes, that'll be the basic concept. We'll definitely want to get ideas from everyone in the company, though with the culutre we have here I don't know if surveys would work (we already have vast amounts of paperwork, which a lot of people resent - room for innovation right there!!), but some way of talking to them. I'm proposing setting up a team of people from different departments with different skills who would evaluate and further develop these ideas and help the rest of the company to actually implement them.

I worry that people are too cynical here, that it'll be difficult to get proposals and implement them because everyone seems to be very anti-change. Motivating other people is not really in my skill set.
 

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Focus groups... excellent idea. I'd recommend ensuring anonymity though. In a company that is against change, a person doesn't want to be tied to an idea that could jeopardize their job. I would make sure they understand everything is confidential. Might be worth your time to conduct 1v1 interviews and really do a deep dive to find the root causes of problems (Root cause analysis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).

Not only will you experience difficulty because people will be anti-change, but you will reach a point where they embrace the idea of change, but fail to make the idea a reality. Take the top down approach as the attitude of management is sometimes passed down to staff. Works both ways - positive attitude and excitement over change can be passed down as well as skepticism and disdain for change. It helps to sell the idea to management as them being partially credited if its successful. Even though you are the one with the idea of going paperless for example, a successful implementation in a department can be claimed by the manager for saving the company money.

Not sure if you are aware, but what you are doing is a formal field called change management. Here is a quick article on the topic (just pulling from the top results in Google). Even if you are familiar with CM, it might be an interesting read:

10 Principles of Change Management
 

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Has anyone been on or created an innovation team? I've been tasked with starting one at work, but I've never been on one. The idea is that it would be a cross-departmental group, and the "innovations" would include product, process and operational changes, large and small. My company doesn't really have a culture of change and innovation, so this might be a difficult sell. My first plan of action is to go to the MD and get his (active and explicit) support, followed by asking some of the more creative open-minded people to join.

Basically, if anyone has any experience our wisdom to share, I would greatly appreciate it.
My opinion here, but I don't think innovation is exclusive to creative open minded people, but should be model where anybody should participate ideas on what will make any process better. I find a common mistake is not being receptive to feedback where one looks at a problem with a fresh set of eyes. I was influenced with the Toyota production system, that really emphasizes ideas from everybody, from janitors to the factory floor.

What I have seen work well, and I implemented in the past, is creating a place where people can submit their ideas and people can vote up or down and participate with comments.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
@ wiarumas: I know a little about change management, though I must admit I hadn't thought of this in those terms, you're right of course. Not something I have any real experience with, I have some ideas about it, but it'll depend on what happens next.

@ Agile: I actually believe that virtually everyone has the ability to think creatively, though some people need a bit of help to "get the juices flowing". The reason I wanted to start with a group of creative thinkers is simply for the support we might be able to give each other. My co-workers are not open to change and proposing change often feels like an uphill battle. It's pretty demoralising, and I was hoping a like-mind group might make it a bit easier. We will definitely encourage input from everyone.

At the moment it's only a proposal. I have no idea of it'll be accepted, or on what format, or exactly what role I would play i n it.
 

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@ wiarumas: I know a little about change management, though I must admit I hadn't thought of this in those terms, you're right of course. Not something I have any real experience with, I have some ideas about it, but it'll depend on what happens next.

@ Agile: I actually believe that virtually everyone has the ability to think creatively, though some people need a bit of help to "get the juices flowing". The reason I wanted to start with a group of creative thinkers is simply for the support we might be able to give each other. My co-workers are not open to change and proposing change often feels like an uphill battle. It's pretty demoralising, and I was hoping a like-mind group might make it a bit easier. We will definitely encourage input from everyone.

At the moment it's only a proposal. I have no idea of it'll be accepted, or on what format, or exactly what role I would play i n it.
That makes sense, and I really enjoy brainstorming myself personally, and my colleagues as well - so I think this is great exercize in general and I have these meetings every 3 weeks. I just wanted to highlight what was helpful for me in guiding innovation sessions. Getting feedback from a wide audience really gives key insight into understanding problems you are trying to solve and who you are trying to solve it for. I usually have a rolling priority of problems that need to be addressed, and every 3 weeks have a team to collaborate and think of creative solutions and also contribute to pitfalls and often debate.
 

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I did this for a large portion of my career. Nearly everything I have read above rings true. My perspective is that if you are truly innovating, you are in a very entrepreneurial or startup methodology. And you need to cultivate that and prevent the process of innovation from becoming bureaucratized. I must say, however, that I do not share the view that innovation is equivalent to change management (of course being a contrarian was the hallmark of my career). Change management is a requirement of innovation to ensure the changes are adopted. But I don't see it as innovation itself.

Change management is critical to the implementation of innovations. When people are resistant, that resistance needs to be met with clearly defined strategy that is rigorously designed to affect not only behavior, but attitudes. Here is where the whole idea of innovation interfaces with talent management, learning, and development. Compelling learning solutions seeped in the affective cognitive domain described by Benjamin Bloom can take a wide range of shapes depending on the needs of the company, its culture, and most importantly, the learning audience.

I served on one particular strategy and innovation team that had a multimillion dollar budget and was so bureaucratic all those millions resulted in exactly zero innovation. On the other hand, I led a small team that accomplished astonishing innovation in the field of performance support for people who process financial transactions. We couldn't get away from deadlines for some of our work, but the team was an incredibly talented group of creative and technical people who were also all great writers. I viewed my job as buffering them from the rest of the organization so they could have the freedom to explore their ideas. This was a challenge of the highest difficulty for me. I struggled against a management culture that was disfunctional in every way, and entrenched in processes that did not work.

I am relieved to be retired because I had limited success in getting innovation implemented. It was very frustrating for me. It felt like I was trying to steer a ship by swimming and pushing against it. The organizations I worked in were huge... hundreds of thousands of people. I do not have the persuasive skills or political acumen necessary to ensure the innovation would be adopted.

I hope this wasn't too negative. The toll it took on me is painful. It's all still very raw.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks for the comment, telepariah. I suspect that what you describe is pretty endemic all over the world. Few organisations are truly innovative. I do think this will be a challenge, but I'd like to give it a try. If I can get management behind this then we might just be able to pull a few things off and maybe small victories can snowball into bigger ones.

The bureaucracy is a killer. We are not a large company, only about 150 people, but we have quality certification which means everything has to be documented. Documentation in itself isn't a bad thing, but people tend to overcomplicate things, so that is a conceern of mine. Hopefully the bureaucracy we have isn't too far gone yet.

My proposal is going to be discussed at a senior management meeting in the next few weeks, so I'll see what happens then.
 
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