The Benefit of Small Innovation Teams

Posted on December 13, 2011 | in Small Business, Sports, Teamwork | by

Harvard Business ReviewMany large companies that formerly used large teams to cultivate and implement innovation are now starting to break those teams down into smaller, tighter, more focused teams.

According to the article “Smart Innovators Value Smaller Teams Over Better Processes” by Michael Schrage on Harvard Business Review’s blog network, companies have started to invest more time and autonomy to smaller innovation teams because it allows individuals to be more tightly-knit and focused on smaller parts of large initiatives, allowing for faster incremental successes and the ability to move to the next steps. It also allows for flexibility in having minimal inertia should the team have to change direction. Companies would rather see slow, solid growth resulting from bits of rapid success instead of significant growth where the culture and foundation is unable to keep up. Growth is good, but sustainable growth is better.

Companies and industries identified as applying this concept include pharmaceutical firms, Google, and Facebook. In addition, there is precedence for the idea of small groups working better together – Malcolm Gladwell covered Dunbar’s Number (aka the rule of 150) in his book The Tipping Point.

What does this have to do with sports or small businesses? Your organizations already have small teams!

Concession stands are small groups of workers. Ticket offices are small groups of operators. Shop floors don’t have much duplicity when it comes to functional area expertise. The ability to work together within departments and across your organizations is simplified with smaller teams.

In order to implement change, there are a limited number of folks who need to be involved, yet it can encompass the entire department or organization. Small businesses have the capability to be quick, flexible, and nimble when it comes to changing course as the market sees fit.

Change is hard, but with a small team change can be made simple, and if changes made don’t work like they should it’s just as easy to change back.

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