Why it’s important to have a dedicated team when working with innovation

I was listening to a series of presentations yesterday and during the last one I had what I’m calling, a West Wing moment. If you’re a West Wing fan you’ll know the episode I’m referring to in a minute. A friend of mine, Eric, will already know, just from the above.

If you’re not a West Wing fan, let me just say that someone said something that made me take notice.

This is how it happened

I was sat in a room with about 20 other people. We’re all part of the same group and we’re listing to a series of presentations, each one connected to working with innovation. I was at the back, flicking through another deck on my laptop, doing what I do in these sessions.

During the last presentation someone said something that made me stop what I was doing and take notice.

This person started to talk about incremental innovation and how if you empower your people to do what they need to do to make things better, they’ll just do it and they’ll get better.

They even went on to say that with a plan and a platform (I’d add a third thing here, a system), that it becomes second nature and people will become more engaged in wanting to become the best or creating the best product, service or experience for the customer.

When they said that the more engaged employees were the more innovative they will be— I knew we were reading the same source material.

For me, it was a really cool moment to hear someone else talking about engaged employees and empowering them, because it’s a different way of working and even though an obvious one, one that needs to be said a lot more.

But that wasn’t the real moment. The moment that made me feel like Josh was when they started talking about working with innovation to disrupt.

I’m not sure how they got from incremental to disruptive innovation, as by then I was trying to find out who it was that was giving the presentation, but as they mentioned the word disruptive innovation, I did see myself standing by the pool dressed as a lifeguard.

The lifeguard is a scenario I use when talking about jumping in. In the scenario, the lifeguard is a member of the innovation team and they are there to help if needed, but also guide. Most of the time though, the lifeguard is there to help the person jump (or to stop talking and start doing).

In my lifeguard example, we’re giving people the confidence to jump in the pool and because they can see that we have all the tools to help, it gives them confidence.

We need to show these tools and share our knowledge, because we all know the longer you wait at the edge, the harder it is to jump.

And this might be a little geeky and you for sure need more than a few paragraphs, but I think you get the picture. And I’m putting this out there today because the person that I was listening to stood up and said something spectacular.

They said: if you want to disrupt, you’ve got to trust the guys that packed the parachute and jump. And then they went on to talk about the importance of having a team to support innovation efforts!

That was the moment that made my afternoon. It’s okay having a vision and a budget to try new things, but without the team that understand the bigger picture, are familiar with other efforts and factors and can quickly point you to where you want to be going, you are always going to be climbing up hill, spending more than you have to and more often than not (and people don’t like it when we point this out); wasting time.

You need an innovation strategy. You need a system for working with innovation. You need a platform to engage. But most importantly, you need a team that know all the above and are dedicated to it.

If you don’t have these four things your innovation efforts will end up as failed initiatives linked to some grand vision that had no real chance of succeeding, ultimately because there was no real desire for success.

So let me end the post on this; if you’re going to work with something so important to the success of you organisation, business or community and innovation is most certainly that — why would you not have people dedicated to it?