All Innovation All the Time

Published: September 10, 2019

Teams have personalities. Some are tired and worn out from managing constant change. Others are frustrated by having to navigate conflict and differences of opinion. Still others are basking in the glow of trust while fearing what happens if they push their magic to the next level. A few teams figure out how to stay in the innovation mode all the time. Here’s their formula.

All teams must travel through all stages of development numerous times throughout their lifespans. Attempting to skip a stage comes back to haunt later. Distancing follows significant change. Investment follows Distancing. Trust follows Investment. Innovation follows Trust. Innovative teams embrace this reality and jump head-first into the tasks of each stage rather than trying to avoid the discomfort that accompanies this choice.

Illustrated graphic of The 4 Stages of a Team cycle

Teams committed to innovation understand that the struggles in the other stages are fuel for problem-solving. They understand that renewal arises from loss. They understand that diversity becomes a rich garden for discovery. They understand that trust, connection and accountability are requirements of experimentation. So, when change happens, they adapt. When conflict occurs, they harness the energy and passion of difference. When trust is threatened, they fix whatever was broken and strengthen their safety net.

The result is all innovation all the time. Teams like this are in a constant state of evolution. They rarely get stuck. They know what stage they’re in and why. They know what to do to keep the cycle moving. At any moment, they are taking one of the following steps:

  • Identifying a problem for which there is an obstacle or no clear solution.
  • Researching best practices or investigating the need for an original approach.
  • Exploring new possibilities and creating different pathways.
  • Testing and implementing fresh ideas.
  • Moving from experimentation to application.
  • Resolving a seemingly unsolvable problem.

Teams like this are rare. The stars must align with visionary leadership and engaged followers. Succession planning is perpetual as talent gets recruited, developed and advanced. Selfish, under-engaged or dysfunctional teammates are shed to preserve the integrity of the culture. While uncommon to achieve and sustain, the recipe is simple.

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.