In our first thought piece in this series, we reinforced and validated the importance and role of collaboration. We then described the range of emerging new, inspirational, and adaptive models that lean into complexity and catalyse and embed sustainable innovative workplace culture change. Organisations such as Alibaba, Disney, Google, Salesforce, and GE developed their future fitness by courageously investing in catalysing, igniting, and leading change through innovation teams. But have you considered this important caveat? Innovation teams are teams that don’t innovate! 

Conventional team collaboration performance and development approaches are still relevant and foundational to long-term organisational success.  A new range of organisational needs are emerging in our fast-changing and disruptive world–ones that complement conventional team development processes and have a major impact on business function. These include:

  • Providing a unified and holistic and systemic “collective mind” focused on adding value to customers.
  • Being agile, focused, and in charge to make faster decisions.
  • Sharing resources and insights to reduce costs.
  • Working interdependencies to improve efficiencies and productivity.
  • Shifting focus from being competitive towards co-creating ecosystems to solve bigger, more complex problems, to lead, embed, and sustain value-adding change in a disruptive world.

According to the authors of Eat, Sleep Innovate, an innovation team is formed to develop “something different that creates value” and do this best in a culture where such behaviors come naturally.

These behaviors include:

  • Curiosity
  • Customer obsession
  • Adeptness to ambiguity
  • Collaboration
  • Empowerment
  • Accountability

Purpose of innovation teams

The purpose of an innovation team is to create an environment that unlocks an organization’s collective intelligence (capacity, competence, and confidence) and builds the capability to change as fast as change itself.


Through mentorship, coaching, and learning process, a team can find ways that align, engage, enable, equip and leverage peoples’ collective intelligence to:

  • Adapt to higher levels of ambiguity and uncertainty.
  • Challenge the status quo and help break a conventional business as usual habits, leadership styles, and comfortable ways of working.
  • Provoke future “fast forward” (horizon three) thinking.
  • Support the implementation of digital and organizational transformational efforts.
  • Collectively and collaboratively drive innovation across organizations pragmatically and make it a reality.
  • Leverage synergies across ecosystems to solve complex problems and deliver increased value to customers.

Ultimately, developing these skills will help to provoke and evoke future “fast forward” creative discoveries, experiment with new platforms, and develop possible future business models to help guide future renewal and reinventions. This developed smart and multi-disciplinary teams in ways that are timely, agile, and disciplined that potentially support and bring significant value to customers, the market, and to the organisation.

Unconventional stretch collaboration requires connection, cognitive dissonance, and conflict

Experimenting with, iterating, and adapting new collaborative models enables organisations and their leaders to shift their focus – from being defensively competitive towards being creatively constructive.

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

  • Have the time and space to deeply connect, collaborate, and co-create value.
  • Maximise differences and diversity of thought.
  • Generate the urgency and creative energy to innovate.
  • Feel safe and have permission to freely share ideas, wisdom, knowledge, information, resources, and perspectives.

Innovation teams create discord and generate conflict

At ImagineNation™ we have found that the best way for innovation teams to perform is through building safety and trust, whilst simultaneously being provocative and evocative in creating discord and conflict to disrupt people’s conventional thought processes, behaviors, and habits.

To engage people in maximising differences and diversity to generate creative ideas, and experiment with inventive prototypes, that ultimately solve big and complex problems and deliver commercially astute, innovative solutions.

By connecting, networking, and focussing on co-creation and emphasising collaboration, inclusion, and mutual accountability, and not on being competitive.

Dealing with the organizational blockers – Innovation teams

At ImagineNation™ our experience has enabled us to understand and reduce the range of key common blockers to transformational and innovation-led change initiatives.

Where we support clients identify, and resolve and remove them by enabling and equipping innovation teams to:

  • Develop agile and innovation mindsets: building capability in safely exposing and disrupting rigid mindsets through customised mindset shifting.
  • Understand the impact of the organisation’s collective mindset: supporting teams to develop an empathic understanding of one another, then shifting how they feel and think to act differently, and cultivate the discomfort resilience when facing the challenges and failures in the innovation rollercoaster ride.
  • Enable leadership development: through educating, mentoring, and coaching leaders to grow their adaptive, collaborative, engaging, and innovative team leadership and membership capabilities.
  • Foster the development of an adaptive and innovative culture by applying the cultural assessment and diagnostic processes that result in pragmatic culture change initiatives.
  • Ensure strategic alignment: sensing, perceiving, and developing a mutual focus, common language and understanding, and a collaborative networked way of working, that bridges the gap between the current and desired states.

Setting up an innovation team – the critical success factors 

At ImagineNation™ we have also helped our clients identify and embed the critical success factors that enable innovation teams to drive and embed innovation-led change and transformational initiatives by ensuring:

  • Alignment to the mission, vision, purpose, values.
  • Strategic allocation of resources.
  • Leadership team sponsorship and mentorship.
  • Investment in team members and leader’s capability development.
  • Thinking big and focussing on clarifying and delivering future “fast forward” far-reaching solutions to highly impactful challenges.
  • Organization engagement and enrollment in implementing changes and creating, inventing, and delivering innovative solutions.
  • Lines of sight to stakeholders, ecosystem players, and customers, taking an empathic value-adding perspective at all times.

Innovation teams – an unfreezing opportunity to co-create future-fit organizations

Embracing this type of collaborative approach creates an unprecedented opportunity for organisations, many of whom have been upended as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, to develop a sense of urgency toward unfreezing and eliminating their corporate antibodies.

Empathising with the range of challenges leaders are facing right now, where many are slowly waking up to a post-COVID world, where there is an unprecedented and urgent opportunity to co-create a “new normal” that is well-designed to lift any of the emotional barriers to teamwork, locked-down relationships, and online fatigue.

Opening the door to a new kind of co-creative, collaborative and cohesive team spirit will allow and encourage people to create new, future-fit, and adaptive systems.

All of these tasks are mandatory for delivering future “fast forward” strategies for applying the collaborative and collective intelligence required for increasing value in innovative ways that people and customers appreciate and cherish. With these methods, we are able to connect with and contribute to the good of the whole.