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8 common team reactions to innovation ideas

Every business organization, large or small, has a variety of individual and team member types that factor into your ability to innovate and change the business to meet evolving customer needs and competition.

In addition, in my experience as a consultant, I have found that it is important to have the processes and discipline in place to integrate and manage the innovation you need.

Overall, I believe the people and their personas, are as important, maybe more, than any process you can implement for timely problem-solving and innovation.

Thus I was happy to see both addressed very well in a new book, Decision Sprint, by Atif Rafiq. He brings over 25 years of experience with Silicon Valley leadership companies in highlighting winners and losers.

I particularly like and agree with his characterization of the eight top team member personas that comprise the majority of professionals in these companies and drive or hinder innovation and new initiatives to stay ahead of the pack.

I will paraphrase those personas here, adding insights from my own career in business and consulting:

1. Standalone innovator: idealizes full autonomy

As standalone innovators, these may have trouble recognizing where the mother ship skills and expertise can be applied to develop innovation ideas properly.

As a result, these people often end up disheartened. If you fit here, I recommend you find a senior sponsor or leave to strike out on your own.

In my experience, new startup businesses are initiated primarily by these standalone innovators, popularly called entrepreneurs. These people are free thinkers, enjoy their independence to make their own decisions and are willing to accept disruptive risks.

2. Intrapreneur: visionary within corporate boundaries

Professionals in this category are wired for new territory but deliberately work through the organization to build support and create momentum for an initiative.

It’s a rare and ideal combination for a large company and you need to have the patience to evangelize with key decision-makers.

3. Analytical: synthesizer of hypotheses and data

These personas are sought out in every company to better understand an initiative and plug gaps in ideas and plans and recommend required resources and tactical moves.

Your contribution can help a number of other personas overcome doubts and concerns and validate visions with real data.

4. Pragmatist: open to change but recognizes realities  

As one of these, It is important to surround yourself with “solution-oriented” supporters, open to finding reasonable ways forward with new ideas.

Lean on your neutral instincts until the right domain experts can explore them. Don’t let pessimists convince you that all unknowns are too risky.

5. Pessimist: constantly raise the specter of risk

You will recognize this persona as always highlighting the risks and displaying a “wait and see” attitude, rather than jumping in to be a driver of change.

If you find yourself here, you need to get out of your comfort zone with haste and shift from a “know-it-all” mentality to “learn-it-all” and move forward.

6. Change agent: likes to drive novel ways of working

If you are a high-energy leader and see something that can enhance the customer experience or push the business forward, you always lean toward making it happen.

You should team up with intrapreneurs to land their ideas and translate them into the language that the company can understand. 

7. Action junky: ready to move, with little patience

Before jumping to conclusions, these personas should ask a few questions to gauge the rate of learning and clarity being created in a project.

Channel your energy into feedback on the alignment and decision-making process. Pivot your focus upstream from implementation mode to exploration.

8. Coach: force for stability and mentoring

The challenge here is to find the right people to mentor, typically people with bright ideas but less understanding of reading the tea leaves, concerns and barriers to alignment.

Coach them on building these inputs for stability in the organization, minimum conflict and building support with senior leadership.

Each of these personas brings value to the workplace, so there is no right and wrong here. I’m simply suggesting that business has changed, so you need to look at the mix in your company, for needs and adjustments.

It’s also time to look at your own fit, as it may be time for some new views and new career opportunities. Innovation and change can be a good thing for everyone.

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