9 Things Your Innovation Team Should NOT Do

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / PieterDePauwAll right, Innovation Team, here’s your shiny new office, now go in there and innovate! (And don’t bother us.)

Is that what your innovation team hears? If so, sorry. Phil Swisher, now working on his own wealth management startup, was global head of innovation Brown Brothers Harriman for nearly five years, and over the course of those years gained some wisdom about what makes innovation teams work — and what makes them not work.

At Next Bank USA last week in New York, Swisher presented the nine things BBH’s innovation did not do. Here they are:

  1. ROI analysis
  2. Create detailed business cases
  3. Allocate innovation team costs to other business units
  4. Require business units to fund the costs of pursuing new products, beyond the investment of time from subject matter experts
  5. Attend boring corporate meetings
  6. Permit others to staff the team — the team owns how it invest its time
  7. Have performance evaluated on quantitative process metrics
  8. Agree to hard deadlines for client deliverables
  9. Work on products that absolutely must succeed

The idea, Swisher summarized, was to have an independent team that was not answerable for deliverables to other business units and that had the freedom to experiment and fail.

This will be a hard pill for many banks to swallow. On the other hand, a team that manages to earn this much autonomy can become isolated from the bank’s core business — “those guys over there.” There is no one solution for overcoming these two difficulties, but Swisher suggested that it has to do with personalities and communication, as with any relationship.

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Philip Ryan is Senior Editor of Bank Innovation and Senior Director of INV Fintech. He began covering financial services in 2012 and has more than 15 years' experience in online journalism, which makes him quite old. He can be reached at pryan@royalmedia.com.

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