Picture: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
Picture: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

RESEARCHERS usually make an important distinction between creativity and innovation. Innovation involves two stages: the generation of new ideas and the implementation of those ideas. Creativity is considered to be the first stage of innovation. While we know a lot about both areas, there’s not a lot of research out there to guide leaders. But according to one meta-analysis, some key attributes do contribute to innovation within teams:

1. A compelling vision. Teams are more innovative when members have a common understanding of team objectives and are also committed to them. Clear and valued objectives can create meaning and motivation for team members.

2. Goal interdependence. Goal interdependence is the extent to which team members can meet their goals only by having the other team members achieve their goals. You create goal interdependence by setting objectives that must be achieved collectively and by addressing issues, including feedback, as a team.

3. Support for innovation. Teams are more innovative when managers expect and approve of innovation. This means encouraging risk and expecting failures.

4. Task orientation. This is a shared concern for excellence that stems from the compelling vision. Teams with a task orientation set high performance standards, monitor their performance and provide each other with feedback.

5. A cohesive team. Cohesion represents commitment to the team and a desire to be part of the team. Researchers see cohesion as creating a psychologically safe environment that enables members to challenge each other and the status quo.

6. Strong internal and external communication. Strong internal communication allows for sharing knowledge and ideas and creates a safe environment for providing feedback. External communication fosters innovation by learning from others and bringing new information into the team.

Adapted from What the Research Tells Us About Team Creativity and Innovation at HBR.org

Harvard Business School Publishing Corp