Six roles to involve for effective innovation

  • Business Model Innovation
  • Design Thinking
  • Design your Strategy

“Tell me and I forget,
Show me and I might remember
Involve me and I understand“

Years ago, when I was running a startup in serious gaming, I had put this old Chinese verb on the wall in my office. It reminded me every day of how people effectively learn. We used this principle as one of the most important design criteria for our highly interactive educational games.

Later in my career I used this wisdom to build and lead effective teams. Involving people from the start in the decision making, giving them the freedom and trust to speak up, share their thoughts, be heard and be involved, really proved to be successful. People were strongly aligned around clear and shared goals, were more engaged, created better ideas, worked better together and achieved better results.

Nowadays, working as a Strategy Designer at BMI, me and my colleagues use the same principle to do both. ‘User involvement’ and ‘co-creation’ are at the core of our DNA and our proven method for strategy and innovation. We have seen that involving the right people and to involve them in the right way, are crucial for effective innovation. So, here are 6 roles you should involve for successful innovation.

six roles


The rebel

The rebel is the one who sees the need for change and dares to step up. It’s the fire starter, the entrepreneurial mind. The rebel could be anywhere in your organization. It could be you. Are you?

Problem owners to turn into ambassadors

These are the ones (multiple people!) that are actually dealing with the problem you want to solve. They are the main stakeholders. How to find them? Think about who will experience the most impact of the change you are seeking for. People on crucial positions in your organization, that need to follow you and enforce the organizational change. If you don’t involve them from the start, they will not be part of the solution. The risk of ‘not invented here’ will be huge. On the other hand, the problem owners are the ones that, when you involve them from the start, come up with strong insights and ideas during the innovation process. They will take ownership of the innovation and become ambassadors. Essential for success!

The executive sponsor

Innovation equals learning and learning equals failures. It’s often said that you need to fail fast. In practice, especially in big corporates, this is easier said than done. When pressure rises, and desired results take longer than expected, people tend to get nervous and decisions are made based on fear, instead on factual insights gathered from experimentation on which you can build further upon. To cope with this, you need someone to back you up. A fearless leader who believes in you and shares your vision for change. A superhero with a shit umbrella.

An unusual suspect: the kid

Innovation is often driven by new technology. Author, Douglas Adams came up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to new technology.

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
  3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

Let’s face it, age does matter. When it comes to innovation you need someone with a fresh mind, someone who thinks differently and sees the world as a playground full of opportunities. Someone with the beginners’ mind; an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions. Most often these are the youngsters that are born and raised in a new reality.

The customer

Let’s keep it short here. You can’t innovate without speaking to actual (potential) customers. Get out of the building!!

The facilitator

This is the person that leads the innovation process. The one that is in control, oversees the process and progress, engages all the people involved, aligns them around shared goals and vison and sets things in motion. Someone who challenges continuously, actually drags you out of the building to speak to your customers and makes sure things happen.

Involve these six roles in your team and you’re ready to play. Next, use the team charter canvas to create your battle plan and become an unstoppable innovation team!

So, whenever you see the need for change, don’t be afraid. Be a rebel and step up. Remember, live rewards action! So, just do it! And do it together! And in case you’re in need of a good facilitator to team up with, please feel free to reach out to me. Me and my colleagues are glad to help!

And remember…
” Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”
– Patrick Lencioni –



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