One of the questions we often get asked is, “How do I get the best innovation talent into my organization?” It’s an interesting question because of course we all want to find the most talented individuals and the most high-performing individuals to drive some of our most important endeavors.
But as we look at innovation, what we’re finding is there just aren’t that many people who are natural innovators, particularly in large organizations. What we look for in an innovator is someone who has a multidisciplinary view on their job and has a set of experiences which has taught them a portfolio of capabilities, which they’re applying almost in a general management-like way to the task of innovation. The reality is there aren’t as many people as we would like who understand and have that full set of capabilities—and more importantly, who can operate within a large, complex organization and deploy them in such a way that they can have disproportionate impact.
As we study this problem of people, what we’ve found is that the individual is the wrong unit of analysis. It’s actually the team, because in reality, especially in larger organizations but even in some smaller ones, no innovation happens without a group of individuals coming together to support it. We’ve been fascinated by this difference between the question we get from clients—which is, “How do I find the best innovators or entrepreneurs?”—and the reality that innovation happens in teams.