I recently opened the door to a threshold for a new kind of co-creative, collaborative and cohesive team spirit to catalyse change through “innovation evangelism”, focusing on building both internal and external talent through empowering, equipping, and enabling internally cohesive and effective innovation teams.  These teams must apply their collaborative and collective intelligence towards initiating open innovation initiatives to ultimately co-create future-fit organisations – that are human-centric, adaptive, engaging, inclusive, collaborative, innovative, accountable, and digitally enabled.

Innovation evangelists are change catalysts who courageously experiment with different business models and processes, in order to crowdsource broad and deep innovation capabilities. They usually do this in new ways that breakthrough corporate antibodies and barriers and deliver sustainable, meaningful, and purposeful change.  According to the recent Ideascale “Crowd Sourced Innovation Report 2021”, “crowdsourced innovation capabilities have grown and innovation output indicators like implementation rate and time to implement have improved. In fact, businesses that were able to rapidly adapt and focus on innovation (in 2020) are poised to outperform their peers in the coming years”.

Innovation teams don’t innovate

The purpose of an innovation team is to create a safe environment that unlocks organisational and stakeholder intelligence to build the capability to change as fast as change itself.

Where the goal is to create a high performing, connected, and networked workplace culture where people:

  • Understand and practice the common language of innovation, what exactly it means in their organisational context, and what value means to current and potential customers.
  • Develop a shared narrative about why innovation is crucial towards initiating and sustaining future success.
  • Have the time and space to deeply connect, collaborate, and co-create value, internally and externally with customers, suppliers and other primary connection points to build external talent communities and value-adding ecosystems.
  • Maximise differences and diversity of thought within communities and ecosystems.
  • Generate urgency and creative energy to innovate faster than competitors.
  • Feel safe and have permission to freely share ideas, wisdom, knowledge, information, resources, and perspectives, with customers as well as across communities and ecosystems.

How innovation teams learn and develop

Sustaining success in today’s uncertain, unstable, and highly competitive business environment is becoming increasingly dependent on people’s and team’s abilities to learn, adapt and grow. Yet a large number of organisations don’t yet seem to value learning and adaptiveness as performance improvement enablers, especially in enabling people and teams to thrive in a disruptive world.  Nor do they understand how people learn, nor how to strategically develop peoples’ learning agility towards potentially co-creating future-fit organisations that sustain high-impact in VUCA times.

We have identified the four E’s of learning at work: Education, Experience, Environment, and Exposure.

Case Study Example

  1. Educational customisation and alignment 

After conducting desktop research and key stakeholder interviews, we customised our innovation education curriculum specifically to align with the learning needs of the innovation team.

We aligned the program design to the organization’s strategic imperatives, values, and leadership behaviours and reviewed the results of the previous culture, climate and engagement surveys. We then applied design thinking principles to “bring to life” the trends emerging, diverging, and converging in our client’s and their customers’ industry sectors. 

We focused on enabling people to perform well in their current roles, building people’s long-term career success, developing their long-term team leadership and membership development capabilities, and laying the foundations for impacting collectively towards co-creating future-fit organisations.

  1. Experiential learning a virtual and remote environment

We designed and offered a diverse and engaging set of high-value learning and development experiences that included a range of organisation wide, stretch and breakthrough assignments as part of their personal and team development process.

We focused on encouraging people to engage in a set of daily reflective practices, offering a series of customised agile macro learning blended learning options, engaging playful activities and skills practice sessions, with structured feedback and debrief discussions, providing an aligned leadership growth individual and innovation team assessment process, and introducing key criteria for establishing effective team cohesion and collaboration. By linking team action learning activities and evidence-based assignments to their strategic mandate, this ensured their collective contribution to catalyse change.

  1. Environment to support and encourage deep learning 

We aimed at creating permission, tolerance, and a safe learning environment for people and the innovation team to pause, retreat, reflect, and respond authentically and effectively to their work. We focused on developing peoples and the innovation teams discomfort resilience and change readiness, encouraging people to be empathic, courageous, and compassionate with one another, allowing and expecting mistakes to be made and valued as learning opportunities and encouraging smart risk-taking, and reinforcing individual learning as personal responsibility. By offering a series of one-on-one individual coaching sessions to set individual goals and support each other, the team become more future-fit.

  1. Exposure to different and diverse learning modalities 

We designed a range of immersive microlearning bots by providing regular multimedia learning options and a constantly changing range of different and diverse learning modalities. Our work focused on providing an informative and targeted reading list and set of website links, setting a series of co-ordinated thought leading webinars, videos, podcasts, and magazine articles aligned to deliver the desired learning outcomes, outlining fortnightly targeted team application and reinforcement tasks, and helping the innovation team to collaborate and communicate their passionate purpose. By designing bespoke culture change initiatives, the innovation team could catalyse change across the organisation, shifting mindsets and behaviours to make innovation a habit for everyone.

Collectively contributing to the good of the whole

Co-creating future-fit organisations requires creativity, compassion, and courage. You must allow the space and freedom to discuss mistakes, ask questions, and experiment with new ideas that catalyse change and help shift the workplace culture, as well as crowdsource possibilities through open innovation.

By creating an environment that catalyses change and mobilises the collective genius, you can co-create a future-fit organisation that contributes to an improved future for the entire whole–leaders, employees, stakeholders, and more.