So, you’ve been tasked with leading innovation in your company. Your job is to put together a team that will not only come up with new revenue-generating ideas, but will also take these from concept to marketable solutions. 
This team will require clear goals, a nurturing environment, and a simple way to measure progress. But that alone won’t be enough. They’ll also have to be diverse, multi-disciplined, and multi-skilled. With that in mind, I’ve put together a brief list of the top skills I’ve learned are imperative to a successful innovation team. 
 

The different skills required for innovation team roles T-shaped personalities 

Innovation teams are usually industry agnostic and not experts in a specific field. They should, however, be multi-skilled and work together – through the process of ideation – to create suitable solutions for the issues they’re tasked with addressing. The ideal personality type of an innovation team member is T-shaped. “What does this mean?”, you ask? Well, a T-shaped person is someone who shows a deep understanding and competency in specific and related skills – this is the vertical part of the T. In the horizontal part of the T, the person has an interest in (and the ability to collaborate with), people offering alternative skills.   

The customer’s keeper 

Throughout the innovation journey, it’s important that the end-user (or customer) be kept top-of-mind. The team’s intentions and thoughts should, therefore, be aligned with said customer. For this to echo throughout the innovation journey, we don’t expect to know what the customer thinks. Instead, we ask them, observe them, and delve deeper into the root cause of their perceived problem. Additionally, an innovation team should be testing their ideas with the customer to ensure a market fit.  

Shapeshifting 

An innovation journey usually begins with a problem and an imagined (back-of-mind) solution. However, due to the iterative nature of innovation, your first thought will likely not be the resulting outcome. Solutions will always be optimised or even pivoted. In this ever-changing work environment, it’s incredibly important to be able to cope with shifting timelines, ideas, and much more. 

Tough as nails 

Innovation teams address complex problems throughout multiple areas and let’s face it, many personality types would not be able to handle this aspect of the job. So, persistence and resilience – not giving up when a topic is confusing or difficult – is the mark of any good innovation team. 
In keeping with the theme of persistence and resilience, it’s important to note that the iterative nature of innovation means that we don’t always get to the root of the problem on the first try. So, we would have to be dogged in asking questions to drive down beyond the symptom. From an organisational perspective, buy-in at every level is crucial. Here persistence and resilience become a critical skill in driving and implementing organisational change. 

Eternal dreamers 

Team members should dream big to ensure their own self-doubt doesn’t sway their decisions. They should be thinking on the edge of impossible, of normal even. Putting constraints on aspirations and dreams could seriously disadvantage the ideation process in the innovation journey.  

A good mix of different innovation team roles make for great teams

There are several other skills and characteristics that make innovation teams great, and they can be found in anyone, not just people who consider themselves innovators. Innovation is a process. With guidance, the right people, and the right mindset, any company (large or small) can innovate.

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