How to assemble your Innovation Champion team

by | Oct 18, 2023 | Innovation

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You’ve decided your organisation needs to be more innovative.

One important step is to select the right individuals to become your Innovation Champions. Once trained, these Champions will become the driving force behind your innovation initiatives, guiding and supporting teams to ensure that innovation is strategically-aligned and yields maximum impact.

While the Champions won’t directly perform the work of innovation, they will act as coaches, facilitating the innovation process and challenging teams to think critically. 

An important consideration is that the role of a Champion should be recognised as part of their responsibilities rather than an additional burden, something in addition to their day job. It’s crucial to reflect on the message this sends as to whether innovation is truly valued in the organisation. 

Determining the Right Number of Champions

The number of Champions you select should be appropriate for how many innovation initiatives will be happening . There is no one-size-fits-all rule. It’s essential to work backward, considering how many people might seek their guidance and a word of advice…

Start small.

When you start with a small team of Champions, individual Champions have the opportunity to gain experience in supporting others to innovate, being coached along the way as they hone their skills and build confidence. If you train too many Champions at the outset, they won’t get a chance to put their skills into practice and their motivation can quickly drop.

Begin modestly and cultivate a dedicated, tightly-knit team, with the option to expand later and facilitate mentorship between experienced and less experienced Champions.

Selecting the Right Team Members

Diversity is a fundamental factor when forming your team of Champions. Consider diversity in terms of functions and departments. Encourage Champions to support individuals outside their immediate department and function. This approach allows Champions to play the role of external consultants, which offers numerous advantages:

    • Champions can get teams to think more deeply by asking questions that challenge assumptions and blind spots, given the Champions may lack these.
    • Champions will need to ask clarifying questions to understand which forces teams to think more deeply about their problems or ideas, driving greater mental clarity.
    • Champions, not being direct colleagues, will likely be able to challenge teams more effectively, asking tough questions that foster critical thinking.

Diversity should also extend to strengths and skill sets. Different stages of the innovation process demand various skills. Consider selecting Champions with the followings strengths:

    • Strategic thinking – The ability to zoom out from the detail and ask essential questions like, What’s our objective here? or What problem are we trying to solve?
    • Analytical skills – A preference for SMART goals and a knack for data-driven decision-making.
    • Creative – Exposure to diverse experiences, industries, and ideas outside their organisation.
    • Customer focus– Past experience in customer-facing roles, and advocating for the customer.
    • Courage – The willingness to ask challenging questions, even if they appear dumb, and the ability to hold the team back when necessary.
    • Curious – An authentic desire to dig deep and ask probing questions to gain a comprehensive understanding of situations, including How do we know if this is true? or What did we learn when we failed to get the results we expected?

Need help with forming a team of Innovation Champions, contact us. We’re ready to guide you on your journey to building your innovation capability.

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