Organizing for innovation

Part 4: What makes a top performing team?

Momentum
In the previous parts of this blog series, I addressed that high engagement of the innovation team is key to successful outcomes. I also explained that telling teams what to do works counterproductive. Instead of engaging, it makes a team more likely that teams go stealth – wanting to do their own thing.
The best way to engage teams is to ask the right questions at the right time. However, a list with questions won’t qualify as asking the right questions at the right time nor will it make for a good experience. The questions need to be asked, but to be able to provide answers, teams need support, examples, and feedback.
Yet, we have learned from our research even that is not sufficient.

Momentum

While obvious in hindsight, I never realized how important momentum is till we started comparing the best and worst performing teams on our Steering Wheel platform.
The difference between top and bottom performers: Momentum.
Once we understood the importance of momentum, we were also able to take preventative measures. There is a lot that you can do to keep the momentum of a team high.
How do you keep momentum when engaging teams by asking the right questions at the right time, giving examples, etc? Metrics that tell you immediately if a team is keeping pace, slowing down, or speeding up, obviously, make it easy to know if a team is losing momentum. The Steering Wheel platform provides these metrics, which is a great help.
However, even if you don’t have the metrics that tell you whether a team is gaining or losing momentum, you can prevent teams from losing momentum by being smart/ conscious of how you ask the questions the team needs to answer.

Asking questions & maintaining momentum

Let’s get back to the example we discussed in the previous blog, about the-job-to-be-done. Even with all the examples and videos, there are still plenty of teams on our platform that describe what their users are doing - eating pizza - instead of the why.
Be cautious though, because when asking a team to redo an exercise, the team will be slowed down. Getting the answer right may help the team to move forward, but in the process, you will have stalled the team. As such, you need to be very careful when asking teams to repeat actions, as that is typically a momentum killer. For the team, having to do the same action twice feels like a setback.

Correct a team or not?

Should teams get corrected? That depends.
Let's not forget that the questions you ask are not like school exams. There rarely is one exact right answer.
If an answer is really far off or so unclear that it will severely impede further progress, it may be good to have a team repeat a task. However, from my experience, I have learned that in most cases it is better to go over the particular issue with the team and give them another exercise to get it right. Because if they did not get it the first time around, chances are slim they will do much better when going through the same materials a second time.
Thus, it is better to take notice that the team has not yet truly understood why their users are needing the solution. Realize, that the team redoing this task will unlikely yield much better insights. Instead, find another tool that will help the team to understand what is missing – for example, challenge them about the problem they are solving.

Offer alternatives

Innovation facilitators are responsible for keeping teams moving at full speed. Teams must be fed with the right questions and tools at the right time. Don't ask the same question twice, instead ask for a similar answer but in a different way.
Fortunately, there are sooooo many templates and tools, that there is always a different way of addressing the same issue. By now, you won’t be surprised that our Steering Wheel has lots of modules and exercises to choose from, so enables you to offer different exercises to go through to a team if they are struggling. As one of our participants said, “The platform does the heavy lifting”.

Engagement comes first

To be clear, you cannot keep or create momentum without engagement. So high engagement comes first. Participants who learn how to operate the Steering Wheel, get access to all the resources needed to keep teams engaged and moving at full speed.
The next cohort of our Innovation Facilitator Program starts this January. We limit our group size to 10 participants, so contact us if you or someone else in your organization would be interested in participating. We will happily provide you with more information about the dates and costs of the program.

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