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It’s easy for those within an organization to see the value of innovation, and decide that it’s an opportunity they’re interested in investing in.
The problem is, making innovation happen is a challenge of its own.
There are all kinds of obstacles that get in the way of innovation and stifle an organization’s progress towards growth and change. None of them is more powerful or insidious than a lack of collaboration and harmony between departments and the people who work in them.
In my experience over the last decade, I’ve come to understand that the only way to achieve radical innovation is to pair and combine previously unconnected skill sets and viewpoints.
As Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”
The most successful innovators I’ve worked with have been organizations that unified their people under one vision or goal — bringing together people from different roles, different departments, and with different ideas.
Recently I came across a study on Creative Collaboration In The Public Sector. The authors conducted studies on collaboration and its effect on innovation, and the results were exactly what I’d experience first hand.
Collaboration supercharges an organization’s innovation efforts in several interesting ways:
- Teams have an easier time solving problems and creating innovative solutions when everyone in the organization contributes to the process.
- Bringing together people who traditionally don’t work well together, or aren’t connected is a sure-fire way to come up with new ideas and solutions.
- Testing ideas and prototyping is more productive when employees in a range of sectors assess new projects.
- Including the entire organization in the process not only spreads the workload and generates ideas, but dispurses the risk too.
- Teams adopt innovation best practices quicker when an all-inclusive approach is taken, rather than excluding departments or employees.
Another interesting finding is that to innovate successfully, collaborators don’t have to agree on everything and go through the process without conflict.
What’s most important to success here is understanding the different roles and how they impact an organization. As well as how to ensure they collaborate productively so that chaos and conflict don’t stifle innovation efforts.
Which leads me too…
The 5 Archetypes of Employees
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The archetypes below are an outline of the psychology and role of those commonly involved in the innovation process within an organization.
My goal here is to explain these archetypes so you can understand the influences at play, how to maximise the value of each role, and minimize their ‘disruptive powers.’
Without further adieu…
When it comes to innovation, it’s common for those within an organization to feel like it’s not their job or responsibility. But what they need to understand is that everyone plays a part in innovation – whether directly or indirectly.
The only way forward is to know your role, add your unique value, and avoid getting in the way of progress. This alone will greatly improve an organization’s chance of successfully innovating. So… what are the archetypes?
Mavericks are the wild, creative types in an organization that drive innovation and change, and can be found in a range of roles. They’re risk-takers and disruptors and don’t care about cultural norms or the status quo.
These guys are the type who are happy to work on the edge of what’s acceptable. The borderline of genius and madness. And they’re the creativity and imagination behind innovative ideas in the organization.
Where the Mavericks tend to go wrong is that they’re prone to getting carried away with their ideas. If unchecked and blindly followed, they could lead an organization towards an idea that ends in disaster. Throwing away what used to work in the process.
It’s for this reason that other members of the organization, such as the Sheriff and Vigilantes see these guys are the enemy. They’re breaking the rules and need to be put in line or shut down.
To be productive, The Mavericks need two things.
The first is to understand that not everyone sees things like them, and they need to develop a structured approach if they want to get traction. Knowing the rules, how to bend them, and how to communicate ideas in a way that doesn’t freak people out is the key. Otherwise, their ideas are resisted.
The other thing they need is support from others in the organization so they can have a safe place to share ideas and not be attacked or suppressed by those who want to maintain the status quo.
Caretakers are usually the leaders and managers of the Mavericks. They are the types of people who view the Maverick not as troublemakers, but as valuable visionaries.
In an ideal world, they support the maverick by defending them and their crazy ideas from members of the team who want to shut them down. Their goal should be to make sure the mavericks ideas can be implemented.
I’ve seen situations where the opposition has persuaded caretakers not to support the maverick, which is a huge problem and results in stifled innovation.
To play their role well and add as much value as possible, the caretaker must develop their management and mediation skills.
They’ve got to be able to lead and manage the Maverick and protect their ideas from the attacks of others in the organization. They’ve also got to provide the time, space, and resources the maverick needs to succeed.
They’ve also got to be able to be skilled mediators. It’s up to them to understand and manage the interaction between those who want innovation and those who are protesting against it. The goal should always be to come up with a win-win solution.
Scouts play an essential role in enabling innovation within an organization. Typically, they’re not the kind of people who are ego-driven, want recognition or to be ‘the leader.’
Instead, they act as support for the Maverick and Caretakers. They assist from behind the scenes by providing crucial information and insights their team can use to guide their innovation efforts.
Where Scouts can go wrong is by letting the Maverick and Caretaker take the wheel. By being too passive, it’s possible that the innovation efforts could very well take a bad turn. The Maverick and Caretakers need the scouts to help them validate ideas, and find the best way forward.
Don’t take a passive role in the process. As a Scout, it’s your job to listen to innovative ideas and survey the landscape. Assess the idea and see if it has merit, identity shortcomings or risks. Then find a way to present the idea to the Sheriff and VIgilante in a way that’s logical, well planned and careful — not a wild, crazy idea.
Just like in western movies, the Sheriff is the person whose job it is to keep order and protect the people. In an organization, the Sheriff are the ones who create the rules and order everyone to follow orders, at all times.
While often limiting, they play an essential role in the innovation process. They’re the ones who make sure the dreamers don’t get carried away chasing an innovative idea and accidentally guide everyone over a cliff.
The problem with the Sheriff is that they usually don’t understand the importance of innovation. It’s their duty to protect the organization, and to them, the best way to do so is by ensuring the rules are followed, and everything goes to plan.
They see innovation as a threat, when, in reality, often the biggest threat to organizations is not to innovate. This poor perspective can cripple an organization’s ability to collaborate, change and grow if not challenged.
To get the most out of collaboration, and boost your odds of successful innovation… you’ve got to get the Sheriff on board. They need to learn when to enforce the law and when to relax and let new ideas be tested.
Part of how to get there is to let them understand that we know they’re here to protect the organization and the importance of innovation. Partner with them, and collaborate with them, so they don’t wage war on new ideas.
Vigilantes are the type of team members who want to keep the peace and status quo. They want to stick to what’s worked, follow orders, and get the job done without any drama. They’re risk-averse and don’t like change.
At their best, they’re a force for peacekeeping and minimizing the chance that trouble makers will overthrow the rules and lead the organization astray.
To them, the mavericks, caretaker and scouts are troublemakers as they’re rocking the boat and disrupting the status quo. Not to mention, going against the Sheriffs rules.
More often than not, this ends in the vigilantes banding together to fight for what is and always has been. Like the Sheriff, they can cause innovation to be shut down or delayed because they don’t see it as necessary.
To add the most value in their role, they need to understand the importance of innovation. They’ve also got to understand that the Sherif is not always right, despite the authority and power he is given.
At the end of the day, his rules are just ONE way of doing things, not the only way. They need to learn that at times they should support the work of those driving innovations. After all, they’re just trying to help the organization grow… which would benefit all involved.
The Moral of The Story
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In my experience, it doesn’t matter what role you play in an organization or what archetype you are.
Innovation, imagination, and change are the keys to survival and growth in today’s economy, and that of the future.
If that rings true, then working together as a team and figuring out how to maximise your strengths and combine ideas is essential. Do your part in a way that adds value to the organization and streamlines the innovation process, rather than hinders it.
Start Enabling Collaboration Today
Did you see yourself in any of the archetypes above? Chances are, you did.
If you’re wondering what’s next and looking for answers… I offer a range of creative services that are proven to help organizations to collaborate and accelerate organization-wide innovation and growth.
Innovation is the key to survival and growth in today’s economy and that of the future.
In my experience, it doesn’t matter what role you play in an organization, innovation is your responsibility.
But new ideas don’t happen if your people are unwilling or unprepared to collaborate.
That’s why I’ve put together this article that looks at teams in a new way and explains the 5 Archetypes of collaborators.
Check it out to discover the destructive traits that hinder innovation, and how to make sure you’re maximizing your value.
#innovation #collaboration #creativity