How to Build an Innovative Team

Last week, we learned that the pursuit of innovation must be embedded in a company’s culture before it can evolve into an enterprise-wide initiative. We’ve talked about the best departmental structures for driving innovation, the need for teams to be comfortable with failure and risk in order to innovate, and more.

But what about staffing the teams themselves? Is there a specific talent mix that is the most likely to yield innovative ideas?

Through Pierpont’s ongoing research series with The University of Texas at Austin on expertise in innovation, we were pleased to find that the answer is “yes.” Here are the four core components of innovative teams, as collected from more than 60 interviews with innovative companies.

Raise ‘em Young

Proactively give junior and mid-level employees opportunities to expand their skillsets and gain exposure to different departments and arms of the company. By training up your junior staff to broaden their horizons, you’ll produce groundswell creators for innovation. The panelists we interviewed linked their innovative abilities to an aptitude for transitioning across departments, willingness to “get uncomfortable” in new scenarios and the intentional development of diverse skill sets.

Capture the “Newness” of New Talent

It’s no secret that hiring talent from diverse backgrounds and experience levels provides a beneficial outside-in perspective into your organization. To maximize this process, however, innovators also instill systems for capturing the “newness” of an employee – their points of view and initial impressions – before their mindset becomes too ingrained in the firm. They understand the power of giving new employees the ability to share their viewpoints on how processes could be improved as a boost – not a threat to – existing operations.

Stand in the Intersection

Studies show that research breakthroughs are most likely to happen at the intersections of departments and disciplines, and when individuals from disparate departments are brought in to work together. The stark variance in perspectives is more likely to uncover hidden problems, fresh viewpoints or new opportunities. When building a team, invite people you wouldn’t normally bring in (such as brand new employees, junior team members, or folks from unrelated departments) to the table. These intersections can be hotbeds for innovative ideas.

Hire Passionate People

If you can find employees who are truly passionate about their work, those employees will be much more motivated to go the extra mile and move the needle. In addition to seeking out talent that has a natural passion for one’s industry or line of work, companies should work hard to help existing employees discover and take on roles that align with what they’re passionate about.

In next week’s final video and blog post, we’ll conclude our Sparking Innovation series by investigating the personal traits and behaviors that drive innovation. Stay tuned!