Small businesses have an advantage over large enterprises when it comes to innovation precisely because they’re not strapped down by big, legacy systems and excessive processes, policies, and protocols. Innovation thrives on flexible, agile, and open environments that provide people with the room to explore new ideas and concepts. Keeping your team small and agile, while also allocating decision-making to as few as possible are two points that will go a long ways towards promoting and improving the innovation culture within your organization. Let’s unpack these points further below.
Create a small, agile team
As should be clear by now, innovation requires a flexible, agile, and supportive environment where it’s safe to brainstorm, express, and experiment with new ideas and ways of thinking. This process does not happen naturally across the board and so it must be cultivated at the ground level. You want to create a small team that is able to work together dynamically and efficiently. When thinking about team size, consider Jeff Bezos’ mantra of the “two-pizza team.” That’s a team that can be fed with two (American) pizzas. In terms of numbers, this works out to somewhere between 6 and 10 people.
The advantages of a small team is that they know each on a first name basis, which makes it easier to seek out specific guidance or get questions answered. Small teams self-organize more efficiently and can catch mistakes faster and work to not repeat them. It’s easier to hold your colleagues accountable and to keep a deeper level of trust when the team is small.
Leave decision-making in the hands of no more than two people
You may have heard the expression that “too many cooks in the kitchen spoils the broth.” Well, it also should be applied to setting up your innovation team and process. One Google exec, known for innovation best practices, advises as follows: “If you have more than two people making decisions about strategy and execution, it’s too many. Disruptive innovation is not about consensus. The CEO or the team leader should have strong and ultimate authority.”
Innovation thrives on keeping honest, transparent, and safe communications going at all times. You don’t want to end up with time-wasting power plays and politics. Keeping your team small and the decision-making in the hands of one or two trusted people will alleviate the pitfalls that so easily beset larger teams and organizations that try to innovate.
Wrapping It Up!
Throughout the preceding series we’ve outlined and discussed a core set of principles that are commonly found among all truly successful innovators. Putting these into practice will help make innovation a central part of your company strategy and vision going forward.
Let’s review what we’ve learned.
Innovation doesn’t “just happen” nor is it solely the product of genius, talent, or luck (though those qualities help!). Innovation requires a proper set of conditions to manifest itself and fortunately these can be taught, learned, and reproduced at the organizational level. Small businesses already have an advantage by not being strapped down by large amounts of bureaucracy.
Creating an innovation culture begins with each individual contributor putting their best foot forward. Everyone can start by doing their part to promote a work environment where it’s safe to brainstorm, express new ideas, challenge the status quo, and develop alternate ways of thinking.
The competition is fierce and the time has never been better to act. So take that first step today!