Innovation is a team sport. I do not believe that you can innovate on your own. Behind every successful product, service or breakthrough is a team.

Innovation is more than having ideas, innovation is about implementing ideas successfully. To execute successfully on an idea, you need a range of skills that is rarely, if ever, found in any one person. Innovation is everybody’s job and to have successful innovation, everyone needs to be involved.

Everyone has preferences about where they operate best in the innovation journey. No one role is more important than another, but every role is needed to be successful. Who do we need?

1. Spotters
A good idea should fix or improve something. Some people are really good at spotting the broken things, and also care enough to try to do something about it. When you are close to something or so busy, you often can’t see a better way. These people can be annoying, but they are essential!

2. Creators
Once you have seen the problem, you need to start thinking of ways to solve it. You need to be inspired by how it could be improved, and what the outcome is. This may be lots of ideas or just a few.

3. Improvers
The idea creators have come up with ideas, but there are those that really struggle with the blank sheet of paper, but give them an idea to make better, and away they go. These people can see the idea flaws and can identify how to make them the best ideas.

4. Networkers
To have truly great ideas, others from different areas need to get involved. It is rare that an idea only touches one team. This is when the networker gets involved and brings others involved to ensure that ideas are multi dimensioned.

5. Overcomers
Most ideas hit problems at some point, and you need someone who thrives on overcoming challenges and obstacles. They love disproving the phrase, “it can’t be done!”

6. Translator
This person is able to take an idea and translate it into the corporate language that is needed to see it progress. They work closely with an Overcomer, but take a more back seat role. They know the rules and policies that must be adhered to, and how to position ideas as a result.

7. The Decider
At some point, an organisation has to decide if they are going to push forward with the idea. This stage normally needs money, and as a result, the idea becomes more visible. They know that not every idea will succeed, but are willing to take the decision. If you don’t have this role, all that happens is that ideas are talked about endlessly!

8. Implementers
The person, or more usually, the team of people that actually implement the idea and take it to market. An incredibly hard job, that needs skill, knowledge, perseverance and a slice of good luck to be successful. The payoff of success is what drives these people.

9. Communicator
These people can’t keep secrets! They tell the organisation what is being achieved, making sure that ideas are cross-fertilised and shared. They are similar to a Networker, but tend to come into their own once the ideas are implemented. They shout from the rooftops and are pretty excitable!

So where is your preference? Where is your organisation’s preference? Does it help you understand why innovation has been getting stuck and how you could get it going?

P.S. For further reading in this area, check out The Ten Faces of Innovation and 9 Roles of Innovation.

Credit: Photo by Nathan Shively on Unsplash