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The 4 Elements Necessary for Building Innovative Teams

Michael S Melfi

Intellectual Property Attorney at Melfi Associates
Michael S. Melfi, J.D., MBA, is an attorney with Bodman PLC who represents emerging companies and established businesses in a wide array of technology and corporate matters. He has extensive experience mentoring, counseling and securing funding for entrepreneurs, inventors, startups and small businesses and their disruptive technologies. His passion is guiding and supporting emerging companies and entrepreneurs and has authored four books aimed to help entrepreneurs gain a better understanding of often seemingly complex areas. Michael is a partner at Bodman PLC, one of the Midwest’s leading business law firms, that provides counsel to some of the region’s most successful companies and individuals on a broad range of issues.

In order to gain traction, earn revenue and turn a brand into a sustainable business, entrepreneurs must innovate. And in order to understand how to build innovative teams, it is important to first understand what innovation means.

Innovation is the ability for teams or groups to collaborate around a product or service to create value through a diverse set of views, opinions and ideas and communicate the value with others.

Here, we take a deeper look at what it takes to build innovative teams.

What does the innovation formula of success look like?

VALUE (what builds organizations) +

DIVERSITY (equality, inclusion, culture) +

COLLABORATION (work together to execute) +

COMMUNICATION (focus on listening) =


So, why do entrepreneurs often struggle with these four fairly simple elements? Let us examine each one further to understand that by removing the barriers to these obstacles, entrepreneurs can authentically and freely innovate.


At the most basic level, entrepreneurs must have a vision in order to create value. In this case, innovation usually takes on creating value for customers who will ultimately pay for a product or service.

However, some innovation can be internal to an organization, for example, making culture or processes better for team members. Other innovation is external, focused on improving the overall quality of the organization, or creating value for investors, management or other key stakeholders.

Ultimately, the company must define and understand the outcome related to creating value for one of these groups (investors, management, key stakeholders, etc.). Assuming the team has come together with the right intention around value, the next aspect is ensuring that diversity is present.


For the sake of this conversation, by diversity, we mean the team’s set of principles. We are more interested in the ability of various team members to bring different views, opinions and ideas to a conversation.

The reason diversity is one of the critical elements of successfully innovating is because finding individuals who will consciously make an effort to ensure that the people at the table are always expressing unique and different views, opinions and ideas is essential.

It has often been said that a bad idea with good support and constructive criticism will turn out better than a good idea with bad support and no criticism.


Collaboration is a cooperative arrangement in which two or more parties work jointly toward a common goal. If a team has clearly defined a vision for creating value and is focused on establishing diversity, they must also establish a collaborative environment that is empowering to those individuals involved.

Collaboration is a multi-prong approach, as it requires both parties to be willing to work together, and is essential for innovation. Without collaboration, the ability to innovate decreases dramatically.

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Effective communication is important for two reasons:

  1. To influence others in a productive manner to reach positive results
  2. To clearly and concisely explain a fact or message, or to ask a question

It is also important to understand that innovation has two types of communication. The first is internal communication amongst your startup’s team members. The second is external communication. Your company’s ability to communicate the value that they’ve created is critical to the success. It does not matter how hard your startup works at innovating, if you are unable to articulate the innovation.

While innovation is used as a buzzword for many organizations, truly innovative startups get back to basic entrepreneurial principles in order to succeed. Innovation does not occur by throwing resources at a problem, but rather through conscious effort to implement ideas that create value for a product, service or a process.

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