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An Innovation Team Looks Like….


“I’m starting to build my innovation team, and I’m trying to figure out what type of roles that should be on it?”

“What characteristics do you look for when building a design team?”

“What type of degrees do I hire to ensure innovation success?”

I hear these questions monthly; both from business leaders from around the world and from myself. Clearly there is no right answer, except for one “It depends.” There are all kinds of innovation and design teams tackling all kinds of problems. If you are creating a team that embodies human-centered design, there are a few fundamentals that I’ve stumbled on.

My good friend, Michael Winnick of Gravitytank, looks for versatility and attitude. Versatility in my world translates to the “Jack of trades”; that guy or gal who can do it all, and wants to. The “and wants to” of course is attitude; that person who is deeply curious…so curious that they follow odd strings, pick up strange assignments, but equally execute more mundane tasks. Innovation teams need people who ride the rollercoaster from the 1 foot view all the way up to the 50,000 foot view and back down again. Versatility and attitude are must haves.

We also look for folks who are:

• Energetic
• Smart
• Creative
• Quick
• Humorous
• Diverse

This seems to an optimal combination. Innovation teams work a LOT of hours together. There is not much alone time and having folks that are energetic and smart but are quick to laugh, and don’t mind looking occasionally silly creates that special team “chi”.

Over and over again, we have come to the conclusion that design teams are not only about skills, but also deeply about people. Success is equally attributed to the people and their personalities as well as their ability to deliver.

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