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HARRY WEST about the three rules of innovation


Harry West is the CEO of Continuum, a global design and innovation firm. He guides the strategic direction and global growth for Continuum, the mastermind design firm behind many products and brands consumers encounter in everyday life. He travels and learns constantly to stay connected with real needs in our rapidly changing world. At HBR Blog Network he explains his three main rules to give teams the ability to innovate.

1. Manage Creative Friction

The wrong type of friction on teams makes people hate each other and hold back, but the right type gets results. How do you encourage good creative friction?

Share the experience. The whole team, including the client, work together through all steps of the ideation process from consumer learning, to analysis of possibilities, to envisioning the final idea. Working with consumers directly to understand their needs and aspirations is an especially powerful bonding experience that gives the team a common sense of purpose, and creates a shared foundation of facts and feelings.

Remove communication barriers. People communicate in different ways, so we do social styles analyses to help people understand how their teammates tend to communicate. Are they a driver, amiable, expressive or analytical? They learn that it is not that Harry is necessarily overbearing, but that he tends to lead with ideas, it is not that Susan isn’t on task, but she tends to consider people first. Once you understand why people are different, you can laugh about it — rather than get frustrated — and it becomes a way for the team to bond, rather than a reason for breakdown.

Have at it. Lock yourselves in the project room and engage in a passionate debate. The magic in innovation is to combine perception with analysis. Few people can do this alone, but a well-functioning team can be prolifically creative and sharply critical at the same time. The team as a whole acts like one open and self-aware brain that is creating and arguing with itself at the same time. The communication is fast and brutally honest and there is only one agenda.


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