10 Ground Rules for Innovation

Published: October 17, 2018

The most innovative team in the history of Team Clock® engagements never stops their strategic planning activity. Their approach is not a time-limited series of steps that lead to a single vision. Instead, they embrace an ongoing, perpetual, cyclical process where the vision constantly evolves. The result is unparalleled discovery and invention. How do they do it?

Anyone who has ever tried to build a strategic plan learns how quickly goals and tactics change. The business environment, the dynamics of the team, the needs of customers, and the influence of stakeholders are always shifting. A single-use plan becomes obsolete long before it can be executed. If you embrace the endlessness of the exercise, you never stop designing the future.

Teams committed to continuous improvement begin with 10 ground rules:

  1. Reach higher than today’s circumstances allow.
  2. Adopt a problem-solution mentality and let the solutions trigger new problems.
  3. Invite every voice to the conversation.
  4. Embrace fearless experimentation where failures get you closer to success.
  5. Reject complacency and resist the urge to celebrate.
  6. Use the power of an accountability culture to keep everything moving forward.
  7. Understand why teams get stuck (e.g. misalignment, broken trust, fear, depletion) and address the obstacle promptly (e.g. recalibrate goals, create psychological safety, leverage differences, take smart risks, recharge resources).
  8. Stick to a cadence of activity so movement is visible, and the team embraces change as a norm.
  9. Share discovery generously by speaking, publishing, teaching, mentoring, and investing in the next generation of visionaries.
  10. Refresh the cycle of problem identification, research, discovery, invention, innovation, and improvement:
  • Problem Identification: An impasse or an obstacle creates the need for which there is not yet a clear solution.
  • Research: Investigation unfolds to determine current best practice or the need for a different approach.
  • Discovery: Exploration and experimentation inevitably lead to new opportunities.
  • Invention: Fresh ideas are proposed for testing and implementation.
  • Innovation: Theory finds application and insights become action.
  • Improvement: A seemingly unsolvable problem is addressed resulting in a better mousetrap, a cure for cancer, or drastic enhancements in efficiency and productivity.

Team wellness is a prerequisite for implementing these ground rules. Groups mired in toxic team politics don’t have the energy to sustain this kind of stewardship. Most of their resources are being misdirected to managing broken culture. Once everyone is committed to a healthy organization, the potential for perpetual change is unleashed.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.