People is the core of innovation. Without it, it will just be a body without a soul.
I would say people is the most important yet difficult part of the equation in making innovation happen. Most people would say that you need the right kind of people for innovation to happen. What I believe is that everyone has the ability to innovate. Each individual have their own unique strength and they look at things differently from you. The challenge will always be on how you motivate them to start thinking differently.
The following are some ideas of mine on managing people for your innovation initiative.
Job description is the first step
It’s important to set the expectation right the moment they step into the company. Those who are selected to join your organisation need to know that part of their responsibilities is to find ways to improve the organisation and it can be anything from products to processes or maybe environment.
Furthermore, job description is another way to convey the kind of culture that your organisation has. And I don’t mean having ” We have an innovative culture ” kind of statement in the company introduction. I will discuss more later as this will require an entire article of its own.
Even Pessimist plays a part in innovation!
In the article “The 6 People You Need in Your Corner“, Jessica Hagy wrote that nothing incredible is accomplished alone and you need certain kind of people in your team to do that. And one of them that she listed is “The Doubter”.
Relating back to innovation, you cannot have a whole team of believer and work on every ideas that seem remotely feasible. You need “The Doubter” to ask all the right question to make sure (at least) all major risks are considered.
The point is to look past whether this person can innovate. Bear in mind that everyone can play a part in the innovation process. Use culture-fit as your beacon to see if he/she is the right person for your team/organisation.
Diversity is the key
In an article from HBR blog network, “Want a Team to be Creative? Make it Diverse“, the author, Beth Comestock said that tension is required to produce breakthroughs and tension comes from diverse points of views.
If you are building a team to come up with innovative solutions to solve certain problems, you need to involve people from other departments who can look at things differently. Depending on the situation, it might be good to involve people from a totally different background or discipline. For example, in a marketing ideation session, a philosopher might give ideas which will induce consumers into thinking the way the marketer wants them to think.
Keep the core team small
To move fast and to remain focused at all time, the core team needs to be small. Depending on the situation, 3 to 5 people is a good number. But do involve a bigger audience at different stages of the project to gather feedback and also to keep essential people in the loop on what’s going on.
The above-mentioned points are in no way an exhaustive list of how to select/manage people to make innovation happen. But it’s a start and I welcome opinion or more ideas on it.