Innovation Strategy: Segregate or Integrate?

Published: January 24, 2017

The most impactful innovations are rarely just the good ideas arising from workplace cultures that support creativity. They are the outcomes of diversity and collaboration that begin with a problem and end with a solution that improves the world. As simple as the recipe might be, it’s difficult to assemble and sustain a team of people who are capable of unselfish, integrative thinking. Why, for instance, would a group of world renowned physicians invite a team of engineers and designers to a strategy session? Even though the physician has never designed a device and the engineer has never performed a surgery, the integration of their talents might create a breakthrough in disease management. How might this apply to your industry?

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.

In isolation, segregated specialists in each of these phases make important contributions to society. But together, they change the quality of life for the population. What if we routinely invited them to the same space rather than separating them by walls and processes? Which strangers in your midst should be welcomed to your strategy session?

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.