Innovation is the life blood of survival in today’s business world. Apple innovated, Blackberry didn’t; Google innovated, AOL didn’t, to give two examples. The question is how to foster innovation, particularly in a public company where existing products can easily trump future ideas, given the constant pressure to meet quarterly earnings expectations. A recent HBR blog post, Set Your Innovation Teams on the Right Path , makes a few suggestions focusing on three themes:(1) limiting the markets that you target to a few high potential markets, (2) setting financial parameters for qualifying new innovation projects and (3) not being afraid to compete with existing product lines, introduce products that initially do not perform as well as current products or open new sales channels. This is all great advice. Yet it falls short of addressing the most important issue in fostering innovation: assembling the right teams.
Don’t think for a minute that Blackberry and AOL didn’t know they had to innovate. They just didn’t get it done. Unfortunately, this is not unusual. To have a chance of success requires assembling a team that can do much more than come up with the right ideas and build prototypes. It requires a team with four different personality types in addition to the right subject-matter expertise. It requires:
Group 1 — Inventors — people who like to dream up new ideas and build models of them
Group 2 — Extenders — people who like to take ideas and models beyond the prototype, creating more fully baked products and services
Group 3 — Refiners — people who like to change designed products and services to make them right for the market
Group 4 — Sellers — people who like to sell finished products and services
What makes this tricky is that the four groups describe personality types, not roles. In the real world, all four personality types are present in most jobs. So, how can you know which team members will fit under each group? Until recently, you probably couldn’t know. Now, the Four Groups 4G [hidden LINK to the 4G place on the SC site] assessment identifies individuals by their personality types, addressing a key issue that for so long has been a major impediment to effective innovation.
In fact, Four Groups 4G does more than tell you into which groups team members fit. It also provides specific descriptions of each of 14 personality types, identifies how well combinations of personality types can work together and gives coaching tips on how different personality types can best approach each other to achieve success at work.
Are you really serious about innovation? You can either continue to roll the dice or address personality-type combinations in innovation team selection and meaningfully increase the chances of success. The choice is yours.