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How to Build Your Innovation Dream Team

In an ever-changing business and technology environment, innovation is not optional. It's the key to survive and thrive in competitive industries around the globe. At the same time, it naturally conflicts with a resistance to change that's inherent in all organizations today.

The road to innovation is rarely straight. While 84% of customers believe the companies they buy from should be innovative, 64% of executives believe that a lack of skill sets and resources inhibits their innovation efforts. Success is not a given but begins and ends with the right team.

In this article, we'll discuss just how to build your innovation dream team. That includes overcoming some of the common challenges businesses face, along with the skill sets and roles your innovation team should play. We'll end with some tips on how to build your team alongside case studies from real-life successes on this same journey.

The Challenges of Building Your Innovation Dream Team

Innovation is never automatic. Regardless of your industry, your ability to iterate will likely be hampered by at least one of these common challenges:

The Mindsets, Skill Sets, and Toolsets Needed to Form Your Dream Team

With the above challenges in mind, it's time to dive into the details of how, exactly, you can build your innovation dream team. That starts with an overarching mindset of innovation across the corporation; in other words, everyone with decision-making power needs to be able to accept change and new ideas for their value.

Within the team itself, a few other mindsets take centerstage. One is the ability to embrace failure. For your dream team, failing is positive because it means you've tried something new. While 95% of product innovations fail, 84% of executives believe innovation to be a core piece of their business strategy.

The third and final mindset within this area is a drive towards win-win collaboration. Your enterprise and innovation team should be able to partner with tech companies and startups in ways that speed up innovation development. That includes joining or creating accelerator programs, collaborating on venture building, and establishing networks that get to market much faster than any isolated efforts.

Beyond these mindsets, each individual you hire should have deep expertise in their role as well as at least a working understanding of everyone else's role on the team. The close collaboration required in this process makes this overarching knowledge absolutely vital. We'll discuss each role in more detail below.

Finally, the innovation team should have enough resources available to adequately perform and pursue their goals. According to one Deloitte study, the average innovation budget is about 3% to 4% of the total operating budget. That said, some of the world's top innovators spend up to 35% of their operating budget on R&D-related activities.

Who Should Be In? Roles and Responsibilities of the Innovation Dream Team

With these mindsets and skillsets in mind, it's time to form your dream team. Think of it as the perfect composition: ideally, your team should consist of enough experts in related fields that they form more knowledge and expertise together than they could in any one department. They would operate independently, not dependent on any business unit but reporting directly to the C-Suite in order to speed up decision-making. That requires a number of key roles:

Of course, not all of these roles have to exist in isolation. Your technical engineer may also be your innovation process expert, while you might have multiple intrapreneurs or advocates. The key is to make sure that each role is represented on your dream team to function well.

How to Build Your Innovation Dream Team From Scratch

You know the challenges, skill sets, and roles. Now, it's time to actually build your innovation dream team. 

That begins with a clear definition of your strategy and goals.

From there, you can define what success actually means within your organization, and build all of your efforts towards those successes.

Next, it's time to assemble your team according to the roles and responsibilities discussed above. From there, you begin to ideate and iterate, and the details of that process go far beyond the scope of this article. The key, though, is constant communication and the ability to understand when to discard a failure or pursue a success.

You'll also need a continuous improvement process that includes constant iteration, assessment, testing, and adjustments. And of course, you need a consistent communication thread to the C-Suite to report on your successes and request additional resources as needed.

Look to some of the world's largest corporations for an understanding that innovation is never reserved for startups. IKEA, for instance, excels globally because of a focus of communication alongside an established innovation process that begins with the founder and includes clear objectives and KPIs. In a different industry, Nestle has established itself as a key innovator by embracing supply chain innovation that continually improves the ways it orders, stocks, and distributes its products.

The innovation dream team has become an essential part of any global corporation. It's the driver behind continuous iteration and digital transformation across the hierarchy, driving and deepening a culture of innovation that is necessary for success.

Learn more about building your innovation dream team within your organization along with the mindsets, skill sets, and toolsets needed to form that dream team at Asia's largest experiential conference, Corporate Innovation Summit 2020.