Innovation is a Team Sport


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Innovation is a Team SportWhen it comes to succeeding in business, ideas are great but you still have to get stuff done.

When it comes to innovation, it may be fun to talk about whether someone is innovative or not, or look at what innovation face they wear, or even whether innovation might be in their DNA. But again the fact is that there are certain things that need to happen for innovation in an organization, or an innovation team, to succeed – including:

1. Identification of a unique, differentiated and valuable insight

2. Generation of solution ideas against a powerful insight

3. Execution of great value creation, value access and value translation (see Innovation is All About Value)

And there are roles that need to be filled on every innovation project team, and filled well, for each individual innovation effort to be successful – and the skills necessary to be successful in each role should be cultivated in the organization. In this article about – The Nine Innovation Roles – I define and describe the roles:

1. Revolutionary
2. Conscript
3. Connector
4. Artist
5. Customer Champion
6. Troubleshooter
7. Judge
8. Magic Maker
9. Evangelist

Innovation is a team sport and everyone is innovative in their own way. Hopefully when you look at The Nine Innovation Roles it reinforces that you too can contribute to innovation success and that the lone innovator myth is just that – a myth. For whatever reason it may be easier for humans to ascribe innovation to one person (Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Bill Gates, etc.), but it is not necessarily helpful to the success of innovation in organizations to popularize this myth. Instead when it comes to creating more innovation in organizations, we must DESTROY it.

Design for Nine Innovation Roles Group Diagnostic Tool

At first glance it is natural for each individual to look at The Nine Innovation Roles and read their descriptions to see which one, two, or MAYBE three roles they naturally tend towards when it comes to innovation, but that is not where the true power of The Nine Innovation Roles framework comes from.

The real value of the framework comes from identifying, and more importantly, discussing which roles are NOT being filled on an innovation team – NOT which roles any individual may be good at, or which roles are being filled on the team. It is in identifying which innovation roles are vacant (or sub-optimally filled) that you will be able to see some of the areas where your efforts are likely to come up short, and then can take actions to improve your chances of innovation success.

To help organizations and innovation teams identify which roles are filled, but more importantly which are lacking, I have created a couple of group diagnostic tools:

  • A simple and FREE Nine Innovation Roles Worksheet to use for self-identification and as an anonymous 360-degree feedback-like group exercise to allow people to see how they view themselves as an innovation contributor and how others see them (and if there are any differences)
  • The Nine Innovation Roles Group Diagnostic Tool – a fun interactive tool to be used as part of a team exercise or workshop that can be self-facilitated or done with my help

You can see what the cards from the Nine Innovation Roles Group Diagnostic Tool look like above, or for more information check out the IndieGoGo project page. If you’re not familiar with IndieGoGo, it’s kind of like Kickstarter – only better.

Which innovation roles are missing on your team?


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