Managing an Innovation Team

Managing an Innovation Team by Walter McIntyre

Innovation is as much about failure as it is success.  Innovation thrives in a culture that is open to challenging the status quo and allowing employees to make mistakes as new ideas are generated. Organizations that do not tolerate failure simply cannot innovate in a way that we would call successful.

Managing an organization that has an innovative culture can be stressful, as there is bound to be friction as new ideas rub up against established ways of doing things and other employee’s ideas. This friction is good if managed right.  This means creating a safe environment for commenting on ideas, introducing ideas and “sharpening the sword” against each other.

Innovation and Creativity in Motion

Many of the activities and strategies we use to innovate and manage are actually road blocks to creativity and innovation. Certainly, the enforcement of a time line and being cost conscience, are important, but only in respect to their appropriate place in the life cycle of a product or service.  When applied to the creative and innovative phases in this life cycle, they are disruptive and cause sub-optimization.

Innovation is a creative process that requires open-mindedness and a safe environment.  Creativity and innovation are processes that rely upon failure and the ability to learn from failure. You cannot create or innovate where failure is unacceptable or penalized.

Editing Your Silo

“Editing your silo” is about gravitating to your own belief system compatible information, instead of challenging your believe system. Stated another way, it is tuning your thoughts and words to arguing your perspective as opposed to drilling down to why you, and others, believe what they believe. Are you editing your silo? If you focus more on the minutia of the social strata of who and why someone has a particular perspective, instead of trying to understand the perspective itself, you are probably editing your silo. “All my friends believe this”, “I am only friends with others who believe like me”, or “I believe this, therefore I am right”.

Lean Six Sigma Innovation and Diversity

We should value diversity of opinion. It is the driver of innovation. When diversity of opinion is not valued, conflict takes the place of innovation. This is a valuable relationship that is critical to the success of any project, venture, or Lean Six Sigma project.