Sunday, September 25, 2005

Teams and Innovation

Unstructured thoughts from the front room …

I have spent a lot of time talking about innovation in healthcare with a good friend Simon Dodds who is a prominent Vascular Surgeon and a well known innovator in the National Health Service. I had not really thought about the relationship of teams and innovation before discussions with Simon but having now read a few things I have formed some opinions. So here goes.

There is something of a paradox about all this. I love team working and I love innovation but I am beginning to think the two are not happy bedfellows. Teams generally work towards a common goal. This could actually suppress innovation because in a sense we do not want people in our team – ‘to row the boat in the opposite direction’. Having said that, I think a well functioning team can accommodate a ‘loose cannon.’ The teams I think about are sporting teams. For instance Manchester United as a team were highly successful when George Best was their star player and yet George Best was very much a ‘loose cannon’ with enormous talent. He always did things differently to everyone else in the team. He contributed to the team ethos quite definitely but he was also known to be unpopular with some other players because he was so different. Any yet the team was highly successful. Fascinating!

I think there is a clear link between leadership and innovation.

I think the leader must give explicit permission for innovators to ‘make mistakes’ and not punish those mistakes. I see no point in any organisation or department to say in one breath they welcome innovation and then punish mistakes if things do not work. This ‘leadership’ may not only be from the very top in organisations – it can simply be the head of the department. I think if the Chief Executive - for instance - does set the tone with explicit statements like ‘we welcome change’ then innovation may happen. I suppose the test is the Chief Executive must support Innovators explicitly – even if it doesn’t work out.

Is innovation and ‘passion for your idea' the same thing?

My feeling is that innovation is often the sole possession of the founder of the innovation and that person needs to convince key players in the organisation first – then find allies and work tactically to change culture. I do not think the National Health Service is brave enough for a big bang culture change overnight. There is a political dimension that the innovator must be aware of and find ways of working with it – there is frankly not much point in denying the existence of politics in any organisational setting – the trick is to find ways of working with politics.


Anonymous said...

My initial thoughts are that one cannot survive without the other. Leaders must have innovators and those that step to the beat of a different drum. If not, then there is nothing to lead. The innovators keep fresh ideas and energy, the leader has to make the fresh ideas work and keep the boat moving in the right direction. Without those pushing the limits things would not change much. Change does not have to be big all the time, but there must always be adjustments. Innovators ensure those adjustments.

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks for that Rocky - effective teams in my expereince can handle and cope with the inovators and extroverts in the team as long as the team is effective. George Best was the best example - he was simply a soccer genius very innovative and creative and while Manchester United as a team were doing well George was a key part of the team. When the team went down hill he could not handle it and got out. Interesting discussion as always with you my friend.

[] Stefan Engeseth said...

To get passion and innovation here is:

1. Hire people who have different talents than you.
2. Install a random control in the elevator so that everyone ends up on the wrong floor. Get a head start by pressing the wrong button today.
3. Exchange Filofaxes with each other.
4. Bring your children to work.
5. Invite your customers to participate in projects at an early stage.
6. Invite someone from the street to attend your next meeting.
7. Mix people in meetings: for example sales people and marketing people.
8. Change the setting of the meeting. Why not hold your next meeting at a kindergarten?
9. Create imbalance. Stand on one leg during a meeting and seek imbalance. Seek imbalance in the marketplace.
10. Use simple language. A good idea thrives on simplicity.
11. Always go the extra mile and do a little more than what’s on the list.


Trevor Gay said...

Thanks Stefan - you must have been reading my book!!!

I agree with you totally - your list and mine are almost identical :-)

Keep it simple

[] Stefan Engeseth said...

Thanks Trevor,
You most be the fastet person to replay on internet!

Here is ONE simple idea for iPod:

“iPod dance” – A nonstop music solution with a perpetual battery

Consumers are complaining about the battery on Apple’s new iPod Nano.
The cost of bad publicity can be astronomical when it makes headlines in Business Week and BBC. Here is ONE simple idea how Apple can change bad headlines to good – by dancing!

Trevor Gay said...

I'll check it out Stefan

Keep it simple