Innovation is a team sport

TEAM-coverI’m currently working with 4 distributed product teams – each striving to create something that’s both innovative & compelling. As I work with them over many weeks, I can see the effects of team dynamics on the quality and speed of their output. When a team is gelling, and tackling a problem productively, we can all feel it — our design activities come together quickly, and the “aha” moments come regularly. But that doesn’t always mean that everyone is agreeing.

Yesterday, during a highly productive team meeting – one with multiple “aha” moments and big actionable takeaways – I expressed my delight at the team dynamics that led to this outcome. One person said “But we’re not all in agreement – how can this be good?”

If the core members of your team are ALWAYS in agreement, you’re missing the healthy creative tension that leads to great work. In that team meeting, one person was arguing for something he’s passionate about — another was framing the discussion strategically – and another was expressing the voice of caution regarding privacy and trust in customer relations. We were able to discuss and consider these issues together – and although we had disagreements, the outcome was a tighter, cleaner, more focused idea for running our Alpha test than we’d had before.

Innovation is a team sport. Don’t be afraid of internal disagreements – instead, treat them like competing hypotheses you can test, validate and learn from together.

For more tips on breakthrough innovation, check out the video below.