Building the A-Team for Innovation
Change and innovation is as much an internal lift as it is external. Most of us spend the majority of our time looking externally at our customers, or our competitors, in order to understand what change needs to happen. We must also remember that our own progress is affected by the teams we have in place. Building diverse project teams can have an impact on your innovation, creativity, productivity, and more.
Depending on how heavy the lift, a project team can consist of a variety participants:
- Stakeholders: Typically holding a leadership role within the organization. These are decision makers who are held accountable for performance metrics and are motivated to support the project leads.
- Project leads: A small team of 1-5 individuals who are responsible for the day-to-day progress of the project. An extension of the stakeholder team, they are well trusted and capable of creating movement for initiatives.
- Project champions: An extended number of individuals who may benefit from having exposure to the project and because of their small involvement, may champion change for the organization at a later time.
Oftentimes, these stakeholders, project leads, and project champions are a mix of individuals from all levels of hierarchy within the organization. They are diverse in gender, ethnicity, and education. We know that multiple perspectives can allow for troubleshooting and extended brainstorming, ultimately leading to project success.
Collaboration is necessary, and sometimes difficult to achieve when office politics, difficult personalities, ego, and other challenges are prevalent for almost everyone in some way or another. Sometimes that means having uncomfortable moments of truth within our organizations, and difficult conversations that most people would much rather avoid. We encourage you to lean in open-heartedly.
Difficult conversations can be healthy.
Having open and honest conversations is especially important when it comes to identifying the goals of a project, pinpointing metrics that the project needs to lean into, and understanding the priorities of important people within the project team and how those priorities impact the organization.
Here are three reads that have fundamentally influenced my approach to encouraging difficult conversations and stepping up to the plate when they need to take place.
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith: Look at yourself in this mirror with Goldsmith’s 20 habits and understand which you’ve gained - and how those habits may be holding you or your team back.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni: A revealing story of the five dysfunctions that get to the heart of how many teams often struggle, and how to overcome these challenges.
Fierce Conversations, Susan Scott: A guide to communication through conversations. “While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a company, a relationship, or a life, any single conversation can.”
Being able to collaborate with a diverse group of people within your organization creates an atmosphere for innovation and accountability. Of course, you can make progress without teamwork, collaboration, empathy, support, etc., albeit much more difficult and likely with wasted time and resources. One of the best ways to motivate others to want to be on your team, is to make it useful and beneficial for them. What are their priorities? What is keeping them up at night? Will your project help to solve something for them? Can it be tweaked to cast a larger net and impact your organization in multiple ways?
Getting everyone at the table together to talk through important topics is the best way to make sure a project has alignment from the beginning. Having the buy-in and positive momentum for your project from multiple perspectives in the company is what you’ll be needing to create change.