1. Model behaviour that supports innovation.
It is extremely important that a team remains highly motivated and in a working environment that not only compels but also supports the emergence of continued innovation towards the on-going project. Therefore a team leader is responsible for modeling the environment and behavior that encourages team based innovation. This may be achieved through three main approaches:
Ø Supportive behaviour; In this case, the team leader becomes a key support pillar for the team. The leader takes the roles of providing guidance, empathy and expressing concern & understanding. This approach is more suitable during the initial stages of induction and training.
Ø Participative behaviour; In this case, the team leader takes an active role in the team's activities. The leader is available for constant consultation, gathering information & providing feedback, promoting the team's problem-solving capabilities and conducting SWOT analysis. This approach is usually used when undertaking activities that require creativity.
Ø Achievement oriented behaviour; In this case, the team leader continuously follows the team through with ideas and prospectives necessary for improvement. This approach is suitable in a cohesive team growth stages.
Ø Directive behavior; In this case, the team leader provides clear guide lines and structures on the task on hand and supervises closely. This approach is best utilized when the ongoing task is labour intensive and has strict timelines.
Behavior that supports innovation may include being collaborative with the innovation team, fair and equitable treatment of each member, working hard, constantly reflecting on the task at hand, being responsible and accountable to the team and lastly providing a fun working environment.
2. Seek external stimuli and ideas to feed to team activities
The knowledge and understanding of both internal and external factors may contribute hugely to a team becoming and remaining innovative. But sometimes the team is so much encapsulated by the internal affairs such as inadequate budgetary constraints, organization culture, time pressures and old patterns of behavior or thinking such that its excellence of innovation drops. Therefore it becomes more important to seek and input external stimuli and ideas to the team to ensure sustained innovation.
External stimuli and ideas might be from:
- colleagues outside of the team
- family and friends
- the internet
- journals and books
- networks or technical experts
- other organisations
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3. Pro-actively share information, knowledge and experience with other team members.
Active participation where the team takes a pro-active and considered approach to innovation and innovative practice is usually the best practice when working in a team. Due to different individual strengths, different team members may contribute to the ongoing project in different ways in terms of problem-solving capabilities, powers of persuasion, particular ways of thinking and offering technical skills or knowledge. This participation requires gathering feedback about the expectations of the team, satisfaction on the team's performance, performance of products & services and recording observations of non-compliance, bottle-necks and failures. Pro-actively sharing information, knowledge and experience with other team members aids in:
- Creating positive energy within the team
- generating and improving on ideas
- Networking and tapping into spheres of influence
- Utilizing individual fundamental literacy strengths (e.g. strong visual literacy, written or spoken communication)
4. Challenge and test ideas within the team in a positive and collaborative way
Collaborative, continuous improvement and positive open communication within the team is of utmost importance, this is what makes the innovation team, what keeps it working well and the determinant factor to whether the team is a success or not. Individual members may be good but if they lack the cohesiveness, trust, respect, diversity and will power to work together the innovation team may not achieve much. Thus testing and challenging of ideas and skills provides an opportunity to strengthen or refine ideas by identifying their flaws, weaknesses and strengths. Therefore this should be undertaken as part of the team regular activities. The team leader may choose to undertake this process by performing the SWOT analysis on the team's operations to identify areas that need improvement and evaluate the likely benefits of the team's ideas.
5. Pro -actively discuss and explore ideas with other team members on an ongoing basis
Innovation does not come as a result of problem identification; true innovation is the art of constant anticipating problems then utilizing creativity to circumvent them. Therefore continuous evaluation of ideas by the team, discussing the outcomes, challenges and opportunities associated with team, and how they can be more innovative is key to a successful innovation team. Pro-active discussion and exploration of ideas is best practiced during team meetings as a useful method to consult and engage members by ensuring participation of members through well developed meeting agenda items, rotating the team's chairperson's role and ensuring all members contribute. Some techniques used during pro-active discussion and exploration of ideas are Brainstorming, risk assessment, fishbone diagrams, mind mapping and decision making.