We’ve talked about why collaboration is the true path to innovation. But how do you ensure that the most innovative people in their respective disciplines are working effectively toward a common goal?
Find the Experts at the Edges
There is a bell curve distribution of talent within disciplines.
“Specifically, those of average talent tend to huddle toward the center of their particular disciplinary piece. That is where they will find safety in numbers among many others who share the assumptions and values that they have all been taught. But this is not how superstars behave. Rather, they migrate toward the very edges of their puzzle piece. Why? Because they know that by doing so they will encounter other bold thinkers like themselves, exploring the unknown territory at the edges of other disciplines. So, the interstices between disciplines are always where the action is. It is where the best practitioners go to invent the future.” —Trillions: Thriving in the Emerging Information Ecology™
The challenge as we build innovative groups in the future isn’t about creating teams of people that are from different disciplines, but about finding those experts who have migrated to the edges and can act as bridges back to the core experts of a given domain.
Great Teams Have a Lifecycle
There is a lifecycle to an innovative team. When the team forms, they are armed with the methods of literacy and innovation. They need both guidance and freedom to grow, explore, and mature. They may need more top-down leadership to point them in the right direction in the beginning. This is an appropriate role for single-minded creative leadership. But when teams become “toddlers,” they may test boundaries. When they experience “adolescence,” they may need to be far more competitive and begin to think they know everything and doubt their elders. As they mature, collaboration and wisdom may come to the fore.
We have found this pattern to be true whether the lifecycle spans weeks, months, or years. Supporting this lifecycle in a repeatable way is critical to sustaining a culture of innovation. Innovative teams live rich lives, make the right things, then then disband. Those constituent members go on to recombine into new innovation entities.
MAYA’s Double Helix
One example method we often use is what we call the “double helix.” It’s actually a combination of techniques. Together, it’s well suited to increase and accelerate trust within the team. The double helix is a form of scenario planning where a series of “rough-and-ready” prototypes of an entire system—built by the team in successive levels of fidelity over a period of days, weeks, or months—are tested out “faster than real time” with representative users. A year’s worth of activities is simulated in a week, and a week’s worth are simulated in a day.
Fast Company wrote an article documenting one of MAYA’s double helix style team events that combined two major organizations—Oreo snacks and Twitter. The article points out the value to the team and organization of this sort of petri dish approach.
“The important thing is to put the experiment out, test it in the wild, but also (test it) with other thinkers that could help us explore and bring it back into the organization.” —Bonin Bough, VP of Global Media and Consumer Engagement at Mondelez International (the parent company of Oreo)
This is an excerpt from the whitepaper “Building High-Performance Teams for Collaborative Innovation.” Next Up? Change the Environment to Change Results. Download the whitepaper now.