Innovation As a Team Sport


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It’s not a Leadership Summit without dedicating a little time to the namesake topic. The Leadership & Innovation session addressed how executive leaders are learning to embrace and foster creativity and new ideas within their organizations.

Kicking off the session with a presentation titled “The People Side of Innovation,” Sarah Thurber, MS, managing partner, FourSight, LLC, a publishing firm that specializes in developing research-based tools to enhance innovation and team performance, stated, “Disruptive innovation has arrived at the door. Someone you didn’t think of as a threat, someone who may have been marginalized, has started to encroach on your area.

“Consumers are scanning the horizon, asking what new solutions are out there? Those who can answer this question could have millions of dollars delivered to their door,” she said.

Thurber went on to explain her three-step approach to help leaders develop creative innovation within their organizations:

Step One – Shift your thinking paradigm.

Step Two – Discover your thinking style.

Step Three – Build diverse thinking teams.

“The thing that juices innovation is human creativity,” she explained. “What you want are people who can figure out stuff when there is no obvious answer. The last people you want on your team are the people trained to come up with the ‘right’ answer because they will all come up with the same answer.”

  Sarah Thurber gets the audience thinking about the "People Side of Innovation."
After detailing each step briefly, including an explanation of the four types of thinking styles for creative problem solving—Clarify, Ideate, Develop, Implement—she walked the audience through a quick test to help determine their predominant thinking style. She said that everyone might possess traits of multiple styles but described Clarifiers as those who generally excel at clarifying the exact nature of a challenge; Ideators as those who generate ideas to tackle a problem; Developers as those who develop realistic solutions to the problem based on those ideas; and Implementers as those who put those solutions into action. Someone with an even approach to all four processes is what Thurber called an Integrator.

“The way you think, as leaders, has an effect on your entire team, your entire organization. Innovation is a team sport. It’s your job to call on unlike minds and build diverse thinking preference teams,” she said.

She concluded with these thoughts, “As a leader you are not responsible for having the right answer but you should come up with the right question—‘How do we stay relevant?’” and she shared a quote from Gary Lew, author of the book “Our World War:” “This is your world. Shape it or someone else will.”

Sarah Thurber, M.S.
Managing Partner, FourSight, LLC

For the last 10 years, Thurber has worked in partnership with academic researchers and top innovation consultants to develop “FourSight: Your Thinking Profile” along with a range of other online and print-based training tools that support cognitive diversity and creative problem solving. FourSight tools, now available in seven languages, have served as a platform for promoting innovation for clients like Nike, Disney, HP, IBM, Kraft, Prudential, US Bank, L’Oreal, the BBC and the Canadian Government. She is coauthor of “Creativity Unbound—An Introduction to Creative Process” (5th ed.), as well as “Facilitation — A Door to Creative Leadership” (4th ed). As part of her M.S. degree in Creative Studies, Thurber developed “Your 2-Minute Thinking Tip” video series to share creativity skills through social media. In 2012, she was awarded the Firestien Family Creative Achievement Award for her graduate work at the International Center for Studies in Creativity.