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How to innovate on problems in large companies

Updated: Oct 24, 2021

Large companies are uniquely positioned to assemble multidisciplinary teams capable of solving a particular problem through a variety of approaches.

When approaching a problem, we do it all in different ways – MRIs would show that centers for abstraction, empathy, emotions, logic activate differently for each individual because our neurons’ wiring, or connectome[iv], is as singular as our genome. Companies need to define some optimal combinations of personalities and intelligences apt at solving sets of problems.

Problems or challenges can be translated by analogy or similarity to another context or paradigm : how can we reformulate an issue in different terms while tackling the same core problem? Only then can a project team assemble a really diverse team: a domain or industry expert provides the “rules” of the game (knowledge about actors, policies, frameworks, laws and shortcuts), while other team members are considered based on their complementary skills and experience (engineers, technicians, analysts, scientists, marketers) and at times extend to guest participants with unique perspectives, such as artists. In building pilot teams, you may be looking for a certain combination of qualities as well, including ones that may seem counter intuitive: stubborness, impatience, ambition, arrogance, resistance to change. To a certain extent, if well managed, each of these personalities may also bring out solutions through healthy conflicts and discussions.

What it means is that large organizations have to provide coaching, freedom and flexibility to project managers to assemble smarter teams. While this task could be outsource to a specialized consultant, this is rather an opportunity to intelligently involve long tenured employees as vectors of change by tapping into their company networks and unparalleled knowledge of company dynamics.

In such organizations, the competitive edge comes from excelling at configuring and building the right teams to solve major challenges. Work is problem and project-based. Titles are transient and secondary. The process can be experimented in the confines of an innovation studio or a special projects entity before being rolled out at a larger scale, and as a starting point for innovation incubation.

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