Ways To Build Innovative Teams

By: | Updated: August 22, 2023

You have found our list of ways to build innovative teams.

Innovative teams are groups of individuals collaborating to generate creative ideas, discover unique solutions, and successfully implement these ideas. An innovative team requires high creativity, risk-taking, and ongoing learning. Examples of innovative teams include open innovation, self-managed, and Agile teams. The purpose of innovative teams is to generate ideas and successfully implement solutions. Additionally, creative teams help organizations remain competitive and relevant by developing new ideas, products, and services that meet the needs of their customers and stakeholders.

Building innovative teams is similar to improving organizational culture as well as boosting employee productivity. You can read innovation books to help cultivate innovation as a company core value.


This list includes:

  • characteristics of innovative teams
  • examples of innovative team structures
  • creating innovative teams
  • building innovative management teams
  • innovative team building ideas and activities

Let’s begin!

Characteristics of innovative teams

Innovative teams play a pivotal role in promoting creativity, fostering collaboration, and cultivating a culture of continuous learning. These teams are instrumental in generating groundbreaking ideas, devising inventive products, and formulating cutting-edge processes. Found across diverse industries and sectors, these teams are united by their shared dedication to creativity, collaboration, and ongoing learning. Notable attributes of innovative teams encompass the following traits.

  1. Open-Mindedness: Innovative teams are receptive to new ideas and viewpoints. These members embrace diverse perspectives and are open to exploring unconventional solutions.
  2. Curiosity: Team members possess a natural curiosity that drives them to question assumptions, explore possibilities, and seek out new knowledge.
  3. Collaboration: Collaboration is a cornerstone of innovative teams. Members actively share ideas, build on each other’s contributions, and work together to develop creative solutions.
  4. Risk-Taking: Innovative teams are willing to take calculated risks. These individuals understand that failure is a stepping stone to success and view setbacks as learning opportunities.
  5. Adaptability: These teams are adaptable and flexible in the face of change. Employees can quickly pivot, adjust their strategies, and embrace new approaches as circumstances evolve.
  6. Creativity: Creativity is the hallmark of innovative teams. Workers think outside the box, experiment with different approaches, and generate novel ideas.
  7. Empathy: Members of innovative teams empathize with end-users and customers. Teams put themselves in others’ shoes to better understand needs, pain points, and preferences.
  8. Constructive Discontent: Innovative teams maintain a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo. These employees consistently seek ways to improve and innovate, even when things are going well.
  9. Experimentation: These teams encourage experimentation. Workers will prototype, test, and iterate on their ideas to discover what works best.
  10. Inclusive Environment: An inclusive environment encourages all members to contribute, regardless of their role or background. Innovative teams value all voices and foster an atmosphere of respect and collaboration.
  11. Time for Reflection: Innovative teams allocate time for reflection and introspection. Folks use this time to analyze successes, failures, and lessons learned to inform future endeavors.
  12. Continuous Learning: Members are committed to continuous learning. Teams seek out opportunities to acquire new skills, stay updated on industry trends, and expand their knowledge base.
  13. Constructive Conflict: Innovative teams welcome healthy debate and constructive conflict. These discussions lead to better ideas and solutions.
  14. Autonomy: Teams have a degree of autonomy to make decisions and take ownership of their projects. This autonomy empowers members to be proactive and resourceful.
  15. Results-Oriented: While focused on innovation, these teams are results-oriented. Folks strive to deliver tangible outcomes and measure their success by the impact of their innovations.
  16. Continuous Refinement: Innovative teams embrace an iterative approach. Members refine and evolve their ideas over time based on feedback and real-world insights.
  17. Cross-Disciplinary Expertise: Diversity in skills and backgrounds enriches innovative teams. Members with varied expertise can approach challenges from different angles.
  18. Resilience: Innovating can be challenging, so resilience is vital. Innovative teams bounce back from setbacks and stay committed to their goals.
  19. External Engagement: These employees engage with external networks, attend industry events, and collaborate with experts outside the team to gain fresh insights.
  20. Long-Term Vision: While addressing immediate challenges, innovative teams also maintain a long-term vision. Members anticipate future trends and position themselves for sustained innovation.

By cultivating these characteristics, teams can foster an environment conducive to innovation, enabling them to thrive in today’s dynamic and competitive landscape.

Examples of innovative team structures

Innovative team structures are organizational formations that foster innovation, creativity, and collaboration. These structures inspire creative problem-solving, open communication, and unconventional thinking among team members. Here are some examples of innovative team structures.

1. Agile Teams

Agile teams embrace an adaptable approach to project management, prioritizing collaboration, communication, and adaptability. This structure thrives on short, focused sprints and frequent check-ins with feedback loops. Intricate and rapidly evolving projects like software development may benefit from this style. Agile teams yield rapid innovation and superior solutions through their streamlined approach.

2. Open Innovation Teams

Open innovation teams incorporate external stakeholders, such as customers, suppliers, and partners, into the innovation process. By involving these outside entities, this team structure ensures the final product or solution aligns with the needs of all parties involved. For instance, a business could establish an open innovation platform where clients contribute suggestions for new products or services. Collaborating with these clients can lead to the refinement and enhancement of these ideas, yielding more inventive solutions.

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3. Self-Directed Teams

Self-directed teams autonomously manage their work processes. This organizational approach stimulates innovation, creativity, and accountability, as it grants team members the freedom to explore varied problem-solving approaches. This increased autonomy engenders higher motivation and engagement among team members, as they can make decisions and take ownership of their roles.

4. Cross-Functional Teams

Cross-functional teams bring together individuals from diverse departments or specialized fields to collaborate on shared objectives. For instance, a product development team could comprise engineers, designers, marketers, and customer support agents. The aim of cross-functional teams is to foster cooperation and communication across different divisions within the organization.

5. Skunk Works Teams

Initially coined to describe a group of Lockheed Martin engineers working on clandestine projects during World War II, “skunk works” has been adopted in other contexts. Skunk works teams often operate independently from the rest of the organization, freeing members from bureaucratic constraints and enabling swift action. This setup permits innovation and risk-taking by allowing team members to explore new concepts and strategies unhindered. Skunk works teams are particularly valuable for high-risk ventures demanding substantial creativity and innovation, such as pioneering technology or novel product designs.

Building innovative management teams

In today’s highly competitive corporate world, innovation is essential to any organization’s success. Organizations must create innovative management teams that encourage creativity, risk-taking, and ongoing learning to accomplish innovation. Here are some steps to take in creating innovative teams.

  1. Define Your Innovation Goals: Clearly articulate the innovation goals you want your management teams to achieve. Determine the specific areas where you seek innovation and how it aligns with your organization’s overall strategic objectives.
  2. Assess Current Capabilities: Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your current management teams in terms of their innovative thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving skills. Identify gaps that need to be addressed.
  3. Identify Innovative Leaders: Identify managers within your organization who exhibit innovative thinking, creativity, and a willingness to challenge the status quo. These individuals can serve as catalysts for building innovative management teams.
  4. Foster a Culture of Innovation: Create a culture that supports and rewards innovation. Encourage managers to share ideas, experiment, and take calculated risks. Recognize and celebrate innovative efforts to reinforce this culture.
  5. Cross-Functional Collaboration: Form cross-functional management teams that bring together diverse expertise from different departments or functional areas. This diversity promotes the exchange of ideas and perspectives.
  6. Promote Continuous Learning: Invest in training and development programs that enhance managers’ innovative skills. Offer opportunities for them to attend workshops, seminars, and courses focused on creativity and innovation.
  7. Set Clear Expectations: Communicate the expectations for innovation within the management teams. Define what innovative behavior looks like and how it aligns with the team’s responsibilities.
  8. Encourage Risk-Taking: Create a safe space for managers to take calculated risks and explore new ideas. Ensure they understand that failure is a part of the innovation process and can lead to valuable learning experiences.
  9. Provide Resources: Allocate resources, both in terms of time and budget, to support innovative projects and initiatives. Managers need the necessary tools and resources to bring their innovative ideas to life.
  10. Create Innovation Platforms: Establish platforms or forums where managers can share their innovative ideas, seek feedback, and collaborate with others across the organization.
  11. Supportive Leadership: Leaders at all levels should model the behavior they expect from the management teams. Demonstrate a commitment to innovation and actively participate in discussions and initiatives.
  12. Celebrate Successes: Recognize and celebrate innovative achievements within the management teams. This process could include awards, public recognition, or other forms of appreciation.
  13. Encourage Experimentation: Encourage managers to experiment with new approaches and solutions. Provide them with the autonomy to test and refine their ideas.
  14. Monitor Progress: Regularly review the progress of your innovative management teams. Assess their achievements, challenges, and opportunities for improvement.
  15. Adapt and Iterate: Continuously assess the effectiveness of your efforts in building innovative management teams. Be open to making adjustments based on feedback and changing organizational needs.
  16. Supportive Infrastructure: Provide the necessary tools, technologies, and support systems that facilitate innovation, such as idea management software or collaboration platforms.
  17. Emphasize Diversity and Inclusion: Ensure that your management teams are diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, background, and experience. Diversity enhances creativity and innovation.
  18. Foster Corporate Entrepreneurship: Encourage managers to act as internal entrepreneurs by pursuing innovative projects that align with the organization’s goals. Provide the freedom and resources to explore these initiatives.
  19. Align Incentives: Incorporate innovation-related metrics into performance evaluations and incentives to reinforce the importance of innovation within management roles.
  20. Sustain the Effort: Building innovative management teams is an ongoing process. Continue to invest in their growth, provide opportunities for development, and ensure that the culture of innovation remains a priority.

By following these steps, you can create a strong foundation for cultivating innovative management teams that drive growth, adaptability, and success within your organization.

Innovative team building ideas and activities

Innovation is a crucial aspect of the growth and success of any organization in today’s fast-paced world. It has become crucial for organizations to build and keep up innovative teams that can evolve with the times and provide original solutions to issues. A great way to achieve this goal is by conducting creative team building exercises. Here are some innovative team building activities and ideas to engage your team.

1. Innovation Swap

Innovation Swap will encourage collaborative problem-solving and innovative thinking within teams by exchanging challenges and proposing creative solutions.

  1. Form teams of four to six members.
  2. Provide flipcharts, markers, and sticky notes.
  3. Set up a central area for presentations.
  4. Teams identify a challenge they face.
  5. Players will write it on a confidential sticky note.
  6. Shuffle sticky notes among teams.
  7. Each team gets a new challenge.
  8. Members will spend 15 to 20 minutes brainstorming innovative solutions.
  9. Teams will then present their solutions and answer brief questions.

This game fosters teamwork, encourages diverse perspectives, and enhances communication and collaboration.

2. Scavenger Hunt

You can foster teamwork and creativity through a tailored scavenger hunt that aligns with your team’s objectives. Clues should be related to market trends or business challenges to encourage problem-solving and innovative thinking.

  1. Define the scavenger hunt objective and challenge.
  2. Craft clues guiding teams to various challenge-related locations or objects.
  3. Establish guidelines and rules for the scavenger hunt.
  4. Set a time limit and monitor progress.
  5. Host a discussion post-hunt to explore challenges and solutions.

This hunt will help teams learn to work together, which can boost innovation in the office.

Check out this guide to team scavenger hunts.

3. Improvisation Workshop

Improvisation workshops improve communication, adaptability, and innovative thinking. Through engaging activities like brainstorming, role-playing, and storytelling, teams develop skills vital for innovation.

  1. Plan and invite team members to the workshop.
  2. Establish workshop rules and regulations.
  3. Create activities to boost communication skills and encourage creative thinking.
  4. Monitor progress and provide feedback.
  5. Reflect on acquired skills and their applicability in the workplace.

Learning to improv is a great way to encourage quick thinking, which can lead to higher creativity levels.

Here is a list of improv games.

4. Brainstorming Session

You can harness the power of brainstorming sessions to spark creative ideas. Depending on your team and task, use structured or unstructured approaches to generate solutions collaboratively.

  1. Identify the challenge to address.
  2. Schedule a brainstorming session and invite participants.
  3. Set session rules and guidelines.
  4. Lead ideation sessions to develop potential solutions.
  5. Narrow down the solutions for further consideration.
  6. Convene post-session to discuss challenges and prospective steps.

Brainstorming sessions are a great way to get a bunch of ideas on the table at once.

Check out this list of virtual brainstorming ideas.

5. Hackathons

Hackathons are an intensive group activity where teams collaborate to devise creative solutions for specific challenges. Hackathons foster original thinking, problem-solving, and enthusiasm among participants.

  1. Choose a challenge or problem to address.
  2. Plan and invite participants to the hackathon.
  3. Establish rules and guidelines.
  4. Form teams to work on solutions.
  5. Prototype, test, and retest solutions.
  6. Conclude with a refined solution and lessons learned.

Hackathons are a great choice for professionals in the technology, automotive, and sustainability industries.

Here is a guide to virtual hackathons.

6. Innovation Workshop

You can conduct innovation workshops to equip teams with the knowledge and mindset necessary for innovation. Content can cover areas like ideation, design thinking, prototyping, and novel business models.

  1. Identify skills needed by the team.
  2. Schedule an innovation workshop and invite participants.
  3. Develop a curriculum covering essential topics.
  4. Engage in activities fostering innovation.
  5. Monitor progress and provide feedback.

If you have a specific goal in mind, then you can encourage teams to solve a relevant business problem you are facing.

7. Virtual Reality Exercises

You can engage your team with virtual reality exercises that simulate real-world scenarios, enhancing problem-solving and creative thinking skills. Virtual reality offers a unique way to build empathy, innovation, and communication skills.

  1. Choose a suitable virtual reality platform.
  2. Ensure participants have access to necessary equipment.
  3. Set up the virtual reality environment.
  4. Brief the team on the exercise and its goals.
  5. Monitor progress and provide guidance.
  6. Conclude with a discussion on results and lessons learned.

Virtual reality is a great addition to innovation exercises, as teams can create more freely in the digital world.

Check out this list of virtual reality team building ideas.


For firms to remain competitive in modern fast-paced business environments, innovative team development is essential. Organizations can create innovative teams capable of developing new ideas, taking risks, and fostering growth by utilizing these strategies. Building a creative team requires effort, dedication, and long-term commitment. However, the result is a team that can stay ahead of the curve and adapts swiftly to changes and challenges. Building an innovative team is a crucial investment in the future of any organization.

Next up, check out these articles on developing workplace resilience and fostering inclusive workplaces.

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FAQ: Ways to build innovative teams

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about ways to build innovative teams.

​How do you build an innovative team?

It takes forethought and planning to put together an innovative team. You should find and employ individuals with a wide range of experiences, opinions, and expertise. This variety of perspectives and approaches helps ensure creative problem-solving. After assembling your team, it is time to create an environment that encourages risk-taking and originality. Finally, be sure to offer regular support to show staff they can create without fearing failure.

Why are innovative teams crucial?

Innovative teams are crucial to any organization because these teams provide fresh ideas, take calculated risks, and promote growth within the organization. Also, innovative teams help organizations adapt to new challenges and opportunities in today’s evolving business world.

What are the best innovative team building ideas and activities?

Some of the best innovative team building ideas and activities include brainstorming sessions, hackathons, improvisation workshops, and design thinking workshops. Innovative teams play a vital role in keeping businesses competitive, adapting to new circumstances, encouraging a culture of experimentation, and boosting employee engagement and growth.

Author avatar


People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com.
Grace is the Director of People & Culture at teambuilding.com. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.


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