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Diverse Teams + Desire To Disrupt Status Quo = Breakthrough Ideas

Earlier today I sat in on a webcast that Joi Ito from MIT Media Lab hosted with David and Tom Kelley from IDEO where they discussed how to foster a culture of innovation and maximize the creative potential of said innovative organization. Then this evening I attended an intimate discussion hosted by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce at WeWork between Kevin Winston of Digital LA and Eric Garland of Live Nation Labs. I’ve excerpted some of both discussions below, but more interestingly I’d like to analyze some commonalities. The brothers Kelley came at the discussion from an agency, teaching, and author/public speaker background while Eric had an entrepreneur turned corporate research & development background, but both ended up hitting on some similar topics. Namely: hiring the best people, fostering their communication, and then getting the hell out of the way.

A common thread has emerged lately in articles I’ve read, videos I’ve watched, and events I’ve attended where managers response to the general question of “what was most important to your success?” is almost always along the lines of “I had a great team”. Clearly some people long for a shortcut to success, but the common answer tends to be “hire great people”, “set your team up for success”, “rinse & repeat”. So then how do you go about hiring great people and setting them up for success? The Kelley brothers seemed to say that having a diverse background was valuable for their team members (I seem to recall one of the brothers noting an opera singer on staff) and that diverse employee base allowed for a wide-ranging set of experiences from which to draw upon during creative sessions. That approach may work well for an agency in that they often work on varying projects and clients and need to have a different approach on a regular basis. However, I wonder how that applies to someone like an entrepreneur or someone  locked into a specific marketplace (e.g., Eric Garland’s focus on the music industry and advancing Live Nation’s business via his Labs team).  Can those teams afford the luxury of a diverse employee base or must they stick to the “engineers and designers with pre-existing experience in the music industry” bit that seems to permeate job postings? The answer, in reality, seems to be against a diverse employee base (see Live Nation Labs job postings for an answer to that). But this is a small sample size, so if you’re aware of teams who hire specifically for diverse candidates I’d love to hear about them to compare their success and failures against organizations who hire for job-specific talents with marketplace experience. My second question of “how to set up your team for success” was hit on by Eric during his discussion; he seemed to say that allowing the team to work when, where and on what they wanted while keeping them physically and mentally separated from upper management was a key to success. Any additional thoughts you have on this topic would be warmly welcomed in the comments section below; let’s chat!

You can peruse #MLTalks and #HWDForward on Twitter to get a pulse of the discussions, but here’s my curated list of highlights:

diversity + design thinking results in breakthrough ideas. #IDEO #MLTalks

ā€” Rinidas (@Rinidas) July 23, 2013

Pedagogical technique: get students to fail asap, get it out of the way so they can concentrate after their fears are conquered. #mltalks ā€” IIana Brownstein (@bostonturgy) July 23, 2013

Creative people are creative in spite of their education, not because of it #MLTalks ā€” Jeffrey Paul (@jeffpaul) July 23, 2013

We need to start a lot of little brushfires to make creativity and design thinking take hold, not one big one – David Kelley #mltalks

ā€” CENSE R + D (@censeresearch) July 23, 2013

Big Change happens when you have things happening from the top down and the bottom up at the same time. #MLTalks

ā€” Melissa Goodwin (@melissagoodwin) July 23, 2013

Want to make change and gain traction in your organization? Have the guts to propose a small experiment first. #MLtalks ā€” Forty (@fortydesign) July 23, 2013

Make creative problem solving less exclusionary. Get more people to say “I can do that.” #creativity #MLTalks ā€” Melissa Goodwin (@melissagoodwin) July 23, 2013

T Kelley “The world isn’t divided into creatives and non-creatives.” Diversity of Expertise + Design Thinking = Breakthrough Ideas #MLTalks

ā€” Jennifer E. Butler (@GrandRapidsID) July 23, 2013

@BigChampagne Advice 2 big companies: best defense against the disrupters is 2 BE the disrupter #hwdforward

ā€” Beverly Baker (@BeverLuLu) July 24, 2013

Eric Garland “I don’t create the curriculum. I just facilitate the really smart creative people.” #hwdforward ā€” WeWork Labs (@WeWorkLabs) July 24, 2013

Innovation requires recruiting people who have #problemswithauthority via @BigChampagne #hwdforward ā€” Beverly Baker (@BeverLuLu) July 24, 2013

“Dude, it’s just entrepreneurialism … it’s going to be ok.” @BigChampagne #HWDForward

ā€” Ross Felix (@DatingRev) July 24, 2013

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