Coaching innovation teams 

How can I make the leap?     ( Image CC credit  )

One of my missions for 2018 is to coach innovation projects.

So, I decided to ask myself a question.

What is the value of a coach or business adviser on an Innovation project?

What might entrepreneurs or creatives need help with? What’s the best way to support them on their journey to make the next big thing. Surely these people are super smart and don’t need any help?

Lots of questions! Here are my thoughts, as ever -also interested to hear your own experiences.

What can you do when you start? 

In the beginning… 

  • Build rapport with the team
  • Understand your terms of work with them? How can you help them from the outside?
  • Watch
  • Listen
  • Offer to facilitate
  • Describe the outcomes they want, the purpose of the sessions and time available

Once they are underway:

  • Don’t rush in with idea No. 1, create more than one way forward, blend the best ideas into something even better
  • Help them be narrow – focus their ideas, channel their efforts
  • Stay outcome focused, what’s in it for their customer?
  • Keep the customer voice involved, how can their product or idea be validated by real users at each stage?
  • Identify any blockers or additional resources needed by the team (more biscuits?!)

Later / As the work winds down:

  • Keep a sense of time and deliver – something has to happen!
  • Ground them on less shiny stuff, like deadlines, criteria, finance and testing
  • Signpost to other experts like health and safety advisers, IP experts or accountants

If things get sticky:

  • Shake it up when they get stuck (change the environment, the coffee, people, groups or the method)
  • Manage conflict healthily (come back to the group purpose)
  • Re-confirm their ultimate purpose for this work

What not to do:

  • Don’t advise, ask them how they’d like you to help them
  • Dont sell at them if fees are involved
  • Don’t be open ended, be clear on what you are there to do
  • Check your not holding them back… are you still the right guide at each new stage?

So on reflection it turns out a coach or facilitator can add real value to innovation. The outside voice can make a real difference to a smart technical team, like Scrum Masters helping to focus a developer teams.

If you’ve had experience coaching innovation work you want to share, or if you’d like some support for your next project, please get in touch.  A good question can always make a difference. 

Credits / Footnotes:

Imagery used under (CC) licence from Lazlo Nagy