The following HBR article focuses on what makes a successful startup team, but I would say this is true of teams outside the startup world as well. Having worked in consulting, corporate venture capital, and now at a startup, I think the importance of soft skills in addition to hard skills or industry experience cannot be underestimated. The study notes that “shared entrepreneurial passion and shared strategic vision are required to get to superior team performance,” where performance is measured by venture capital investors.
It is my experience that many in the corporate world overlook this fact when seeking out innovation from their teams. To identify new opportunities, or dream up innovative products or services, teams need to have entrepreneurial passion - whether that is inherent or fostered, oftentimes just by being given the permission to do so. At the same time, a shared vision is critical - if a team doesn’t agree on, or more often doesn’t know, the strategy of their department or the company, they run the risk of focusing on the wrong thing, never putting the full weight behind a good idea, or losing momentum because they can’t see what they are working towards. Not to mention lack of leadership buy-in because their innovation pursuits aren’t supporting broader sales/growth goals, and thus won’t be given needed/more funding.
It is very hard for anyone not at a startup to truly act like one. But that doesn’t mean certain operating principles and goals cannot be adopted. Staffing for aligned strategic visions and a shared passion can be step one.