How can you ensure that your company has innovative teams? Based on our experience building innovation teams and consulting for Fortune 500 companies on setting up innovation processes, a key component that has proven to be paramount but consistently neglected is psychological assessment.
Though many organizations already use assessment for hiring, leadership development, team-building, and executive coaching, it has not been extended much to hiring and building better innovationteams. Why does this even matter? It matters because innovation requires specific personality types, characteristics, and an environment that engenders psychological safety, to be unleashed. In select studies, innovation teams that leveraged personality types generated 95 times more profit and increased the speed as well as effectiveness of new business development by over 900% compared to their counterparts.
While results like that are probably pretty unusual, they suggest that applying assessment processes and tools to building your innovation team is likely to have a positive impact on your organization. A good way for you to begin understanding innovative types is to read a little bit about each personality type in the MBTI and be familiar with the HBDI along with the NEO-PI-R as many people have taken these tests. What these various assessment tools have shown is that innovative people typically focus on possibilities and exhibit what is often referred to as a visionary thought style. Visionary minds generally think intuitively and holistically about problems and opportunities while integrating as well as synthesizing different lines of thought. They create multiple ideas through divergent thinking and then cognitively connect the dots (convergent thinking), often uncovering new solutions otherwise not thought possible. Additionally empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person, and emotional stability are key qualities directly related to creativity which are some of the largest predictors of great innovators.
For access to the commercially available assessment tools and help using them, reach out to the companies that own the assessment tools or to an industrial organizational (I/O) psychologist who can administer them to your team.
But even without formally testing job candidates or existing team members, you can start to detect innovators during the interview process by crafting questions that target innovation traits: resilience, emotional stability, flexibility, openness to new experience, and empathy. For example, to help assess divergent and convergent thinking, you might ask the candidate to come up with a multitude of varying solutions to a problem and then see if they are able to draw connections between those solutions to find a novel approach. If you want to test a person’s empathic abilities, have them create a persona for a new product or ask them to tell a story about a day in the life of a potential customer to see whether they can take on the perspective of someone else. Both exercises will give you valuable clues as to how well the applicant can connect with others, both emotionally and intellectually. Additional specific questions to address empathy can be:
The more insight, emotion, and knowledge the candidate has around questions like these the more empathic they are and hence the more innovative potential they possess.