4 Must-Have Roles on Your Innovation Team and How They Can Succeed

Innovation Team Work

Companies are increasingly recognizing the need to take a proactive approach to innovation.

In fact, 79% of participants in a global survey ranked innovation as one of their top three priorities. The question then becomes one of how to build a stellar innovation team and set them up for success.

Building the ultimate innovation team begins during the hiring process. It is important to bring people onboard who are interested in the problems you need to solve. This will provide the type of intrinsic motivation that you can further nurture by assembling a collaborative team and creating the right environment.

Decision-makers should also keep diversity in mind during the recruitment and hiring process. A diverse set of experiences and skills can provide new perspectives on age-old problems. Go beyond hiring people who seem like an obvious fit or mirror your own background.

What Is the Right Size for Your Innovation Team?

The perfect number of people on your innovation team will inevitably vary among industries and companies, but there are some important common considerations to keep in mind.

First, more isn’t necessarily better. Building a massive team can actually be counterproductive and prohibit clear and effective communication and collaboration.

It is more important to find the right mix of people. Don’t get hung up on job titles and descriptions. Instead, as you try to build the ideal team, focus on individual proficiencies and diversity.

Second, remember that while certain roles need to be filled, there is no reason one person can’t take on several roles. Keeping this in mind can help build a smaller, more agile team.

4 Essential Roles on Your Innovation Team


Recruitment Expert

This individual will be responsible for connecting with external resources, forming relationships with start-ups and exploring new verticals. Depending on your industry, the recruitment expert may also want to reach out to customers to collect input and enlist their help as potential sources of innovative ideas.

Company Liaison/Innovation Advocate

Transparency can play an important role in getting the rest of the company to buy into new ideas and processes from the beginning. The innovation team should be sharing their work and even soliciting any suggestions from the rest of the company to make the innovation process feel more inclusive.

Making this a priority and designating a team member to initiate informal conversations throughout the process can yield big dividends once new process and products are officially introduced to the entire workforce.

New Technologies Expert

Successful innovation relies heavily on taking advantage of the latest tools and technologies. The technology expert can stay up-to-date on ideation and collaboration programs and help introduce new technology to the team.

This person tends to relay a more data-driven perspective, which can help provide a valuable framework through which to objectively evaluate the feasibility of ideas.

Product Specialist

Establishing goals and setting out a new path begins with understanding the current state of your business and the market. A product specialist should have in-depth knowledge of the competition, emerging trends, potential opportunities for growth and your existing offerings.

Creating a Culture of Innovation

Assembling the ultimate team is just one part of the innovation equation. Management and team leaders also need to actively work to create a sense of psychological safety where team members aren’t afraid of failure.

Not every idea is going to be a home run, but even a well-intentioned fail can turn into a learning opportunity or plant the seed of an idea that can evolve into something substantial. Celebrating failures changes the entire company culture.

An effective innovation team will also be using the most efficient processes to test technologies. Long and difficult processes used to be accepted as the price to pay for innovation, but that is no longer the case.

Now, the entire technology testing and evaluation process can be streamlined and optimized.

Set Clear Objectives and Milestones

Establishing clear goals is an essential component of a successful innovation team that bears results.

Some may think of corporate innovation as something abstract, but it should be treated just like any other project and include specific goals and KPIs.

Putting a certain amount of structure in place allows the team to evaluate progress and adjust accordingly. This constant loop of feedback and adaptation will result in a stronger innovation team that continues to perform.

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