The innovative capacity of an organization is typically realized through unit-level teams. Previous studies correlate innovation performance with cultural diversity of teams, but note that team dynamics need to be optimized to derive maximum benefit. Herein, this study offers an assessment of available team building instruments through the lens of diverse innovation teams. In a demonstration project in the pharmaceutical industry, this study then outlines specific tools and approaches which can be successfully deployed through team coaching and mentoring.
A cluster of nine innovation teams with varying degrees of cultural diversity was provided with assessment and management instruments which had been identified and field tested by a mentoring team. Content included cultural awareness tools, innovation team profiling methods and Team Science (SciTS) ideology. Teams were funded, coached and mentored through a six-month performance period and assessed at regular intervals.
Team assessments provided correlations between performance (measured by project completion and new intellectual property generated) and diversity together with wealth of information on intra-team culture and dynamics. Concrete recommendations from the study include adoption of appropriate communication standards to promote inclusivity, use of SciTS operational tracking metrics to enhance engagement, use of the FourSight group profiling methodology and cultural quotient scale cultural awareness instruments at team-forming stage to promote effective dynamics and enhance inclusivity.
Cultural diversity has a positive impact on innovation teams. This said, for maximum benefit cultural awareness of team members should be optimized to avoid unintended conflicts developing. Such issues can be exacerbated when teams are deployed remotely and preventative measures should be established. These issues became of heightened significance as a result of telecommuting imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and have longer-term implications, as corporations consider global air travel reduction through environmental concerns. A tracking tool is described to monitor team engagement and promote inclusivity. It is expected that the learnings can influence how teams can best form, normalize and operate within corporate innovation programs and form the basis of long-term impact studies.
This represents the first systematic study on the impact of cultural diversity and team dynamics within innovation programs in the pharmaceutical industry. The tools and methodologies deployed are widely available and can be adopted by innovation teams in many adjacent industries with established innovation ecosystems.