Innovation is a team sport.
Without designers, developers have no vision for a prototype, and product managers have nothing to manage. Without developers, designers' creations never become reality, and sales has nothing to do. Without sales, even the best products won't gain traction, leaving little budget for the next project.
But when innovation teams work together seamlessly, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. By giving all members input into decisions — product designs, new features, sales strategies, and more — innovation teams can create the best solutions for customers' needs.
Your Company's Playmakers
For enterprise companies, the stakes are high. No matter how successful a given product may be, over time market saturation leads to diminished returns and slowed growth.
To notch new wins, you need a fresh crop of innovators. Each product they create helps bridge the gap between existing revenues and future growth.
Lowe's Innovation Lab, for instance, is helping the home improvement chain prepare for a future of smart homes and businesses. With partner Made in Space, Lowe's is creating some out-of-this world innovations, including a 3D printer that's to be used aboard the International Space Station. Closer to home, the innovation team built OSHbot, an artificially intelligent robot designed to welcome visitors into its stores and help them search for products.
But innovation labs aren't just for brick-and-mortar brands.You can credit Amazon's innovation lab for the Echo, IBM's innovation lab for early IoT solutions, and Autodesk for powerful, factory-grade 3D printers.
When the same old products aren't cutting it with customers, make sure you assemble an innovation team that has these five personalities:
1. The Visionary
At my company, we just call him Tony. Tony cracks open the box, envisioning that which is not yet visible. He's one part dreamer, one part planner, and one part creator. When Tony sees problems others haven't addressed, he breaks out the whiteboard to find a solution. By definition, your innovation team needs to develop new ideas, so the visionary is a must.
2. The Designer
New ideas are wonderful, but at the end of the day, you're a product owner. You could have the most brilliant idea in the world, but if it doesn't make sense to your users, it won't sell. The designer bridges that gap. Our designer, Kori, takes ideas and creates experiences that resonate with users. One of her greatest strengths is providing quality feedback. When she thinks a concept can be improved, she doesn't hesitate to say so.
3. The Architect
The architect has a lot in common with the designer. But beautiful mock-ups are of little value unless they become functional, so the architect's role is to bring the designer's concepts to life. Our architect, Rudy, has mastered many software languages, enabling him to turn Kori's designs into real products at lightening speed. The architect takes an idea from the pages of the playbook and turns it into a win for the team.
4. The Persuader
You have a cool product, so you're done, right? Well, almost. You still have to sell it — to the broader organization and to the market as a whole. That's why you need the persuader. If you have budget for it, you might even separate the role into internal and external persuaders. This person could not only sell weed killer in the desert, but also discern the good ideas from the bad. Our persuader, Tom, has a deep sales and marketing background that allows him to take a new product to market with great success.
5. The Mediator
At the core of any creative team is a talented project manager. The mediator excels at balancing priorities and communicating effectively. With the gears greased and key players on the same page, your creative team is left to, well, create! Our mediator, America, is a task management and communication fiend. She takes a product vision and dices it up into small actionable tasks. Without her, our team might have the idea of a lifetime but end up just spinning our wheels.
Finding the right players to stock your team isn't easy. When we interview for our innovation squad, we ask candidates to describe a problem they'd love to see solved and a potential solution. How they answer the question will often tell you whether the person fits on your team — and, if so, where. Are they a dreamer, a creator, or a manager? Does he care more about the human or problem-solving aspects of a project?
At Yeti, we build innovative softare, but what we're really passionate about is exploring fresh fields like virtual reality and the Internet of Things. So if your dream team needs a coach, drop us a line. Innovation is at the heart of all we do.
Tim Shipman is a Yeti Alum. Tim is an avid cyclist who enjoys exploring new, creative ways to apply technology to suit clients’ needs. When he's not in the Yeti cave, Tim can be found in front of a TV giving an in-depth analysis of the San Francisco 49ers to his Great Dane, Big.