The process of innovation has changed greatly, with companies increasingly widening their horizons to bring in different viewpoints and skill sets. Innovation teams are larger and more diverse than they used to be, and often even include folks from outside a company.
Credit Suisse CIO Tom Sanzone, in an interesting CIO Insight Q&A, discusses how he deconstructs projects into small chunks, then determines which members of Credit Suisse's global team can best handle each component. Though this type of virtual collaboration is becoming second nature at many companies, Sanzone points out that the technology to facilitate it has only been in place a few years.
Physically bringing together team members during a project's early stages is generally a good idea, Sanzone says, even though it seems counter to the virtual collaboration concept. Since risk-taking is an inherent part of innovation, Sanzone says corporate culture must be flexible enough to acknowledge that occasional failure is part of the process.
In an interview with IT Business Edge, the CEO of think tank New Paradigm says that many companies still struggle a bit with new approaches, whether it's using tools such as wikis or peer-to-peer networks or outsourcing some of the aspects of innovation. Trust is an important part of the equation, he says, and managers who strive to become more like relationship guides or coaches rather than "command and control generals" will likely experience the greatest success.
Important as it is, trust can break down in distributed workplaces, so it may be necessary to come up with creative solutions to foster it. One company referenced in this CIO Insight article uses an online stock exchange for idea creation and development. Another good idea: an Innovation Manager who can serve as a liaison between senior management, virtual employees and outsourcing providers.