Cross-functional teams are essential to product and service innovation. Any time there are people involved, the “Fuzzy Front End” will remain fuzzy. One of our clients calls this place, “a simmering pot of ideas, opportunities, opinions, politics, and fear.”
In the front-end of innovation (FEI), significant dollars are usually spent on understanding customer needs and “filling the funnel” with product concepts. The client team is under immense pressure to make the best use of these resources.
When working with large teams, however, you often wind up with very diverse personalities and skill sets. Team alignment can be compromised when the wrong people are called upon at the wrong step in the process, and when the process does not account for the differences in people. Project teams are expected to internalize customer needs, generate creative ideas, and build product concepts. Some people are better at these tasks than others.
When building a project team, recognize that each of these tasks requires very different skills. We recommend testing each member for their cognitive style using an instrument like Myers-Briggs®. This provides fantastic insight on how best to leverage each team member throughout an innovation assignment. Each person should know his or her style and how different styles work best together. When team assignments are based on leveraging unique gifts and abilities vs. criteria like tenure and position, it goes a long way in building team cohesion.
In short, great minds DON’T think alike. Great teams, however, understand that every brain in the room makes a unique contribution.