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Innovation takes Collaboration is a reboot of a 2014 blog post: http://fulcrumconnection.com/blog/collaborate-to-innovate/.

Creativity to address the five key challenges of innovation often takes collaboration.

One challenge of innovation is identifying a need whether articulated or not. For example, you can brainstorm current societal, economic, and technology trends with others and then identify current products or services that are not addressing those trends adequately (http://www.informit.com/articles/). These gaps in current products and services represent innovation needs.

A second challenge is designing a new product or service to meet an innovation need while generating as much desire as possible for that new product or service. To design the new product or service, you can apply the human-centered team approach used by industrial design firms like Ideo (https://www.usertesting.com/blog/2015/07/09/how-ideo-uses-customer-insights-to-design-innovative-products-users-love/). Typically these approaches include working with a small team to interview potential customers and customers who currently use a similar product or service. The benefit of working with a team is that one person can focus on the interview while a second person can focus on listening for understanding and a third person can focus on documenting the input.

A third challenge is pricing the new product or service according to the level of desire. If you have defined a new product or service niche with your innovation, then the more important this challenge is to the success of your innovation (https://hbr.org/2004/07/). In this case you can work with others to design a prototype of the new product or service and then interview potential consumers on what they would pay and what would make them pay more for the product or service (https://www.qualtrics.com/pricing-surveys/). Your team could also work with clients who are closer to the consumer than you are on optimizing the price for the product or service. Your team should be prepared to repeat this process for several iterations of the prototype that each incorporate consumer input.

A fourth challenge is producing or providing the innovation at as low a cost as is reasonable to generate profit. In the case of a service, you can work with the client to explore a price ceiling before providing a package price for the new service. In the case of a product, you may need to work with suppliers, manufacturing employees, assemblers, packagers, and others to price the product.

The fifth challenge is marketing the innovation to generate a large enough market to cover all costs for the product or service. As with the prototype of the product or service, you can prototype marketing content and delivery mechanisms to test effectiveness with your target consumers. Alternatively, you may wish to work with a marketing firm or marketing professionals to design a marketing strategy and marketing content. Make sure that who you decide to work with understand that marketing today is both an art and a science (http://www.chiefmarketer.com/whats-important-marketing-art-science/).

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The social awkwardness of Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj on the Big Bang Theory is funny and entertaining because these characters represent relatable, though exaggerated, versions of technical people we have met or have known. Ironically, the most socially savvy people I have known also happen to have technical degrees. It turns out that these socially savvy technical people typically share one thing in common: they have received personal coaching of one form or another.

Why would a technical person need personal coaching to develop social skills for the workplace? I think there are three reasons. First, a technical degree program is so demanding that little time is left over for developing social skills before a technical person enters the workforce. Second, once in the workforce, the development programs offered do not typically cater to the needs of technical people. Third, technical people tend to display the traits they most detest in a leader when they get their first managerial assignment.

When you are studying for a technical degree, you learn to focus your attention and block out as many distractions as possible. In fact, I would isolate myself in a favorite nook on the top floor of the university library to study for hours on end. No people to distract me up there. When a person distracts us, it is typically through engaging one of the automated emotion systems in our brain. In fact, being able to identify your emotions is one aspect of emotional intelligence often cited as foundational to social skills. With little practice of people distracting me in college, it is no wonder I struggled with identifying my emotions early in my corporate career.

I remember being enrolled in many different types of training programs over the course of my corporate career. Only a handful were memorable because I found them to be useful. The ones that were memorable helped me leverage the traits that come naturally to me as a technical person. For example, I remember a training program on influence that leveraged my natural problem-solving ability.

I think there are traits that draw people to a technical career and help make them successful in that career. People who don’t possess these traits tend not to stay in a technical career. Being aware of these traits helps technical people understand how these traits can help and hinder performance in the workplace. For example, attention to detail tends to make technical people intolerant of micro-managers. Attention to detail also tends to make technical people be micro-managers themselves. Talk about calling the kettle black!

Because technical people have limited opportunity to develop social skills during college, and because many corporate training programs do not teach technical people how to leverage the traits that come naturally to them, technical people who become leaders tend to need personal coaching to increase their effectiveness. This personal coaching helps them to see how the traits that come naturally to them can hinder their effectiveness as leaders. While the traits that draw people to technical careers are primarily cognitive in nature, these traits can be leveraged to develop the emotional and social intelligence which provide a foundation for leadership.

If you would like to learn more, then please click on this link to take a short survey on technical traits and you will receive the final list of technical traits with a white paper on how these traits can be leveraged for leadership: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/63KKV8K.

Big Bang Theory Christmas Present

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