The Power of the Individual

Sally just started her new job. Her first assignment is to be part of a team to explore potential new business opportunities for her compa­ny. Although the company’s products are selling well and are its core profit center, all projections predict that profit will plateau. Growth has already leveled off. Sally’s team is asked to find new service opportunities using the company’s industry expertise from its prod­ucts. This way, the company’s products will still be a part of the com­pany but will be leveraged in a comprehensive strategy for servicing the customer, not just supplying the customer.

Sally will be working on a team of eight people, all from varied backgrounds. Her education has prepared her to work with diverse groups. She enjoys the exchange in teams and always learns some­thing new from the different perspectives of the team in analyzing user research and, in particular, the insights from interacting with those customers. Sally has figured out that you learn not only by lis­tening to and observing customers but also by involving them in the product development process.

It is clear to Sally that the team manager will be great to work for. when building the team, the manager made it clear that she does not want to micromanage. Her role is to support, energize, and optimize the team’s capabilities. The team has no idea where they are going, because the mandate is purposely open; they have been given only a sense of the opportunity. Everyone seems comfortable with that gen­eral directive, and they are excited about the opportunity to define their own direction. Sally knows that this will be the focus of the next six months of her life. At the right moment in the project, she will start to think about what comes next, but all she can think of now is the potential of the task at hand.

Sally represents a variety of innovators; she could have a degree in engineering, industrial design, information design, human-computer information, marketing, entrepreneurship, sociology, or any of numer­ous other fields. Throughout the world, universities are graduating the new breed of innovators. They are coming to business opportunities with a new fusion of skills, shaping how products are developed. In the current marketplace, the value of a corporation is increasingly found in its knowledge workers and less in uniquely owned business process­es. These workers not only have a core expertise, they are also com­fortable working across companies in integrated product/service teams. This fusion of individual and team is a power that will fuel the next wave of innovation.