Much has been discussed about the importance of strong, efficient teams in practicing innovation, as well as the skills and roles that team members should have to achieve the best collective performance. In the past decade there has been a strong emphasis in understanding multidisciplinary teams as the source of …
Much has been discussed about the importance of strong, efficient teams in practicing innovation, as well as the skills and roles that team members should have to achieve the best collective performance. In the past decade there has been a strong emphasis in understanding multidisciplinary teams as the source of innovation, while the importance of the specific characteristics that constitute a creative individual, other than skills and expertise, have been ignored or undermined. It could be argued that the prevailing discourse is in accordance with concepts like community, integration, open, collaborative and similar ideas that share a common concern for social cohesiveness in times of economic scarcity and uncertainty.
It is true and even accurate to state that innovation processes require a collective effort due to the level of complexity of the endeavor. However, the outcome and the process itself are always highly influenced by the individuals that form the innovation team. More than in any other team work task, the particular conditions of an innovation project require a very special balance between effective group work, and talented, motivated individuals.
Innovation emerging in the realm of the unknown or unexplored, demands high levels of risk-taking and dynamic creative approaches. To respond to these conditions, innovation teams are required to operate in an almost paradoxical way. They need a high degree of group cohesion to create an environment of trust, reliability and support, but at the same time they require flexibility and a high degree of autonomy so that team members have the appropriate conditions to challenge assumptions and paradigms, and to bring unexpected interpretations to the table.
Successful team work and creative problem solving are easier said than done. No matter how many reasonable arguments we find to defend participatory design and collaborative innovation, social interactions bring an additional set of constraints that at certain times, create more obstacles than alternatives in the creative process. However, teams can increase their chances of success and can improve their performance by enhancing the conditions in which members work together, and by making a conscious effort to understand the underlying motivations and drivers of each individual that conforms the team.