7 New Years Resolutions Of Innovation

By January 10, 2014


It’s a new year filled with new possibilities! Startups and innovation go so well together, and innovation depends on creative teams working together on important problems.

Washington University professor of psychology Keith Sawyer spent 10 years studying improvizational jazz and comedy teams. His research proved there are 7 characteristics of effective creative teams. Your startup team can use Professor Sawyer’s research to get more creative results in your organization.

1. Innovation emerges over time

New ideas build on previous ideas, and each individual’s contribution affects the new ideas of the rest of the group. Over time, better ideas can emerge as the group works together in new and surprising ways.  Make sure to dedicate enough time for today’s good ideas to influence tomorrow’s great ideas.

2. Successful collaborative teams practice deep listening

There is a constant tension between communicating new ideas while listening to the ideas of others. Effective creative teams find a balance so that more ideas can be heard without spending excessive energy processing the ideas of others.

3. Team members build on their collaborators’ ideas

Each idea is an extension of the ideas that came before. The process of exchanging new ideas together gives teams a chance to influence each other. New possibilities emerge from the progressive mixing of ideas.

4. Only afterwards does the meaning of each idea be come clear

Small details that do not seem significant initially may prove enormously important in the end. Leaving room for the seemingly insignificant can be the difference between success and failure.

5. Surprising questions emerge

Finding a new way to frame a problem or noticing something no one has noticed before is often the beginning of transformative creativity. Finding new problems can be as important as solving old ones.

6. Innovation is inefficient

Mistakes and misses are a part of the process. There will be a lot of wasted ideas that will never happen. And that is how it is supposed to work. Innovation cannot be about getting the answer right the first time or there is no room for the risk-taking that distinguishes bold innovation from the way that already works.

7. Innovation emerges from the bottom-up

Everyone on the team must feel like they are at the same level when discussing new ideas. The best results from all team members will only come when every team member feels equally empowered. No ones ideas are better than any one else’s, and no one should feel afraid to share their ideas.

All of these characteristics are worth keeping in mind while generating new ideas and executing the best of them. Great ideas are proven with execution, and being effectively creative means better starting points for execution.

May the New Year be filled with new ideas generated and executed by your startup team!

Learn more about Professor Keith Sawyer’s research in Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration.


Photo Credit: Steve Jurvetson