Organizations large and small have teams that are responsible for executing business objectives. In some cases, the objective is to overcome a challenge; other times to re-engineer a process; still others are tasked with the commercialization of new ideas. Regardless the initiative, the net result is that change will need to occur in order for a new, preferred outcome to be realized. Instead of the top executive in a group owning the need to introduce change, it is usually better to get a team involved for buy-in and swift implementation as well as diverse viewpoints.
Every team has inherent strengths, unique capabilities, passionate individuals with keen insights, and the opportunity to succeed. Invariably, however, time seems to work against innovation and helping teams find the time to do something uniquely significant can be tough work. Culture can impede team progress. It is important to provide the permission, resources, and support for teams to feel it is okay to brainstorm, invent, and implement new ideas.
Bulldog Drummond of San Diego uses a five step process to guide teams through innovation:
STEP 1: WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
While it sounds obvious, framing the challenge clearly is the first step to take. Use the power of “Why?” to ensure the challenge is clearly stated and that everyone on your team understands the problem or the opportunity. Frame the challenge as a question.
STEP 2: UNLEASH CROSS-FUNCTIONAL TEAMS
Brilliant minds inside companies are often under-utilized because there isn’t a venue to bring them together. These minds don’t get enough time with their peers and are rarely put into environments designed to produce them with enough time to attack a single issue. When solving a challenge, don’t just have marketing or product development teams attack the problem. Instead, unleash the power of cross-functional teams and, if possible, more than one.
STEP 3: PUT THE CONSUMER (AND KEY INSIGHTS) INTO THE MIDDLE OF THE CHALLENGE
Millions of dollars are flushed down the drain because people aren’t paying attention to the data and the knowledge it contains is not organized in a manner that tells a compelling story. Bringing the consumer to life as people, not just as data, places the consumer and key scenarios into the middle of the challenge in an organized and insightful approach.
STEP 4: DESIGN AND FACILITATE AN AMAZING PROJECT EXPERIENCE
When attacking a challenge, envision the entire experience from beginning to end so that the teams can focus on solving the challenge. We begin by defining success with the project leaders and then choose an inspiring offsite venue and bring 5 to 10 cross-functional teams together. We make sure there is homework completed in advance preparing the teams for their time together, including gathered research, trends, and suggested work in the field. Next, we design the experience—from music and food, to a range of carefully facilitated exercises—and we model a passionate curiosity to solve the problem. At the end of the one or two days we always have amazing, actionable outcomes.
STEP 5: ACT QUICKLY ON THE OUTCOMES
The key to success is to ensure that the ideas are not lost because they haven’t been framed correctly, or they don’t get the time and attention due to the day-to-day activities. Make sure that post the summit, the learnings and outcomes are synthesized in a compelling way, and that a project champion is chosen to lead the ideas into development.
Well-designed innovation summits are characterized by creativity, fun, and enthusiasm. Your organization can empower its teams with resources, support, and approval to dream big dreams and develop ideas that will benefit the organization. It is then incumbent upon leaders to move quickly to implement the ideas.