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The Unspoken Genius – Do you have it in your innovation team?


On Monday 8th March I took part in an incredible event on Clubhouse to celebrate International Women's Day 2021 with over 50 speakers having incredible conversations over 36 hours. It was epic! It was a privilege and a pleasure to listen to and take part in conversations with women from all over the globe on topics raging from innovation, imposter syndrome, leading with purpose, digitising our businesses and how we choose to challenge the world in a positive way.


I hosted an incredible Clubhouse Conversation about Unlocking Female Genius in the context of innovation. This conversation cracked open a number of common themes for female innovators and innovation leaders. Initially we started to focus on female genius, but we very quickly moved to a conversation discussing the traits that are required for successful innovation teams. How we need to look for what I call - the unspoken genius.


The traits we had a great conversation about are not unique to females. All innovation teams need these core skills, traits and personal characteristics in combination with others to be successful.


It is never one idea or one person that solves a challenging problem, but how the people and ideas are combined to arrive at optimal solutions.


Females can be the galvanising force that drive innovation inside organisations. Of course, they will not be the only force that drives innovation, a successful innovation team requires an organisation to harness a number of different types of people to question everything. Look beyond the standard extraverted innovation characteristics we think we should have and focus on the inclusion of the quiet and unspoken genius.


In my experience building innovation eco-systems the following traits are essential to the success of building a self-sustaining innovation eco-system and culture, and these were echoed by conversation in the room.


Here are the five traits of the unspoken genius we discussed tapping into when unlocking the genius in innovation teams:


Great collaborators

This always seems like a no-brainer, but not everyone has the collaboration skills they profess to have. It’s imperative to have a person like this in every innovation team. Not only do these people tend to keep the team on track and on time, but they also foster an environment of open communication, inside and outside the team. We could talk all day about what makes a great collaborator, but in a nutshell this person keeps people in the team and external to the team focused on the common goal and proposed outcome.


Empathy

Beyond the data and tactical requirements of a customer, these people have a knack for viewing ideas and outcomes from the perspective of the customer. How do we really solve their problems and pain points without this considered perspective? It is an incredibly critical component to the discovery and development of an idea, but also the ongoing implementation and lifetime management.


Deep and Active Listeners

This is the person who hears more than the words that are being spoken. They hear the emotion and actively engage in the conversation. To really understand your customers (internal and external) you cannot be passive in the conversation with them to quickly address a need. These people place focus and meaning on the words and the unsaid to put the puzzle pieces together.


Incredible System Thinkers

I call this being able to see through the matrix to move from a linear end to process to have a holistic, circular view of how ideas need to be considered as part of the entire eco-system of the organisation.


Social Sensitivity

Having people in a team that have a high-level perception of the machinations, under-current, social constructs and customer story tellers. By telling the story of the customer we can articulate the where we believe the gaps are and why it may be critical to fill those gaps.

It is these jointly constructed understandings of the internal workings and needs of the customer that help create the identity to a concept. This the balance of perception, data and institutionalised facts and how we lean on our intuition to fill the gaps of the unknown.


One of the key unspoken takeaways from the conversation, is that success is dependent on the balance of traits in a team. Neither an entirely female nor entirely male innovation team is a great idea. When we do this, we create gaps and blind spots in our thinking and perspective.


Innovation is about more than the idea. It is about the people that bring it to life and the culture that is formed around it.


Pay attention to the balance of people, personalities, skills and the balance of feminine and masculine traits to get the right balance that works to bring an idea to life. Harness the power of a collaborative group of different thinkers.


Whilst we started on the process of understanding female innovators, we shifted the thinking towards traits of successful innovation teams which are not gender specific, and this really is where we need to be when we think about innovation and building cultures.

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