Aligning Around Innovation is a Human Task

Foster Your Own Stealth of Eureka Ninjas

Every human wants to make a mark

If you were to design a creative team from the ground up, you might start with experts. Experts can have Ph.Ds or other advanced degrees that apply (or are adjacent) to your team’s needs. You might also look for expert practitioners who have spent their days working their craft from different angles. You would be wise to bring in people from diverse backgrounds with diverse interests and encourage parallel thinking and perpendicular thinking: self-disruption will surely help flesh out your creative product.

Reframe challenges

With this advanced team, you will likely spend time framing the challenges in front of you. You will verbally reframe challenges repeatedly until you see them as opportunities in your ongoing conversations. The iterative nature of your conversations helps new facets of the challenge/opportunity to emerge. This ongoing conversation is super helpful to your team and you: people can get excited about the vision and start to see how and where they fit. They also get on board as they hear their understanding reflected by other team members. [i]

Failure to reframe can keep your team stuck in older cognitive and emotional frames. Those frames may have worked with previous challenges, but not the present challenges—not the new challenges your team faces.[ii]

You know your reframing is successful when new ways of looking at things keep popping out from team discussions. Reframing is dynamic with a team that is becoming aligned around a purpose.

Value curiosity. Build trust

If your team of experts has a few jaded holdovers from previous team editions, don’t despair. Even these weary few can find their way back to an engaged present—your team of curious people is vital. These skeptics may require infusions of trust to move forward. Perhaps they are jaded because they have not felt listened to in the past. Maybe they feel underappreciated. Relational trust is a crucial lubricant for knowledge exchanges.[iii] Trust is essential in the collaborative process central to your high-functioning team.

By this time in your team development—with your experts actively connecting the dots on their own and bringing their insights into the open discussion—you have already traveled far toward the goal of hanging with people having intentional eureka moments. Your team meetings reflect the open questions you have discovered, are aligned with the more significant purposes, and allow for human interchanges, which, while not always on the mark, allow for responses and readjustments that keep moving your group toward the solution.

The bottom line is that your team can and should be different from other teams. Teams can have their own ethos and be a generative force for personal and systemic change. That ethos starts with talking and listening and hearing, mixed in with a bit of wonder.

Human stuff.


[i] Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol/Iss: ahead-of-print Date: 2021 OCLC – 9067452206, 1031606512; ISSN – 08858624.

[ii] Raffaelli R, Glynn MA, Tushman M (2019) Frame flexibility: The role of cognitive and emotional framing in innovation adoption by incumbent firms. Strategic Management J. 40(7):1013-1039.

[iii] Anderson AR, Hardwick J. Collaborating for innovation: the socialised management of knowledge. International entrepreneurship and management journal. 2017;13(4):1181-1197. doi:10.1007/s11365-017-0447-6

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