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What you need when building teams to drive innovation

Strengthening the innovation capacity in your teams is not easy in times of pandemic, read what you need.
3 mins read

In the midst of the pandemic, you may ask yourself what you can do to successfully drive innovation.

Customer needs and collaboration among colleague have changed.

Predictability has disappeared in many places.

28% of respondents to a global Leesmann survey of 145,000 employees said that home office does not support collaboration on creative topics [1].

In fact, the opportunity for casual conversation in the spaces around offices has disappeared.

Similarly, opportunities for exposure to new and different experiences - environments, sounds, smells, ideas, people are limited, or only half compensated for via the Internet. Online tools exist, however, a lot of the attention goes into operating the technology.

What makes innovative teams?

Innovation happens when colleagues from different disciplines and backgrounds come together to develop, test, and produce new capabilities. To accomplish this, individual participants must work together exceptionally well. They find ways to bring their different perspectives together to produce something new.

Everyone on such a team must be aware of each other's needs, roles, and perspectives. Those involved must learn to appreciate each other's differences and combine them into something new.

But it's not just an appreciation for other perspectives and the playfulness to create novelty that leads to innovation. It takes a lot of discipline at the same time for progress and true learning. Amy Edmundson, a professor at Harvard University, talks about teaming, where high standards exist on the one hand, and mistakes are tolerated on the other [2]. In addition, there is a need for experts in specific fields and generalists who put the various pieces of the puzzle together.

No matter how motivated those involved are, collaboration requires more than the usual. Those involved must come to terms with the image of interdependent work. You need to share your ideas and skills. But you also need to be curious about what others can offer and contribute. You must subordinate your own goals to the team goal and can't always shine as the standout doer.


How do innovative teams need to work together?

Dynamic collaboration in innovative teams has been described by Ed Catmull of Pixar Studios, for example [3]. He cites regular, candid feedback and constructive friction as important success factors in creating hit movies. In daily but also quarterly demos "brain trust" meetings, colleagues contribute their perspectives. This is done additively, not competitively.

Braintrust meetings are considered valuable because they broaden the overall perspective. Feedback is good when it tells what is wrong or missing, what is unclear or doesn't make sense. Feedback is good when it is timely. Feedback does not make demands and does not have to contain a solution. If it does contain a solution, it is only an example of one and not a prescribed solution. However, the most important thing about feedback is that it needs to be very specific.

Ed Catmull says that it is difficult to express the truth. But it is the only way to ensure excellence in a creative organization.


What do you need for innovative work in teams?

You may notice that these things don't happen on their own.

Above all, it takes trust. Trust in your own strengths and abilities and those of others. It takes trust in the interaction and in the common goal. It takes trust in the process and the emergence of valuable and usable insights.

It needs openness and curiosity. Things may have changed. Old beliefs may no longer be true. A neutral view of what works and what doesn't. Curiosity into the perspectives of others. Be curious. Explore customers' hopes, desires, pain points, and work packages.

But it also takes leadership for setting high goals, being a role model, mentor, and coach. Behaviors and mindsets of leaders always radiate to the teams. Therefore, it is important as a leader to demand, encourage, and at the same time model innovation.

You may be wondering how you do all this in times of pandemic. There is a key. The key is the bonds between team members. Strengthen the bonds between team members! The ability and willingness to innovate will follow.



[2] Amy C. Edmondson ,Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy, Jossey-Bass; 1. Edition

[3] Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, Transworld Digital


New plattform for innovation

Train, learn, test and implement innovations with an online platform for your teams and employees. In this way, you drive bottom-up initiatives alongside top-down ones and strengthen innovation capabilities of your organization.

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