Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Getting to know "The Innovative Team"

A book review by: Adela Vangelisti
Graduate Student
International Center for Studies in Creativity

Do we really need another leadership book?  Many widely-read books have been written about the subject, ranging from New York Times Best Sellers like John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (2007) to scholarly texts like Leadership: Theory and Practice, by Peter G. Northouse (2010).  Chris Grivas and Gerard J. Puccio wrote The Innovative Team (2012) because they believe that some authors approach the topic by giving too much weight to following rules and guidelines, and too little to nurturing our innate leader.  Thus, it is helpful to have several books covering the same territory with different perspectives.

The authors restore the balance by exploring, in detail, the activities of a fictional group. Using a breakthrough thinking process and a self-awareness framework the group deals not only with the client’s demands for innovation in their organization, but tackles today’s collaboration challenges when working in a team environment. The authors contend that, “the potential of any working group is defined by its members—not just individually but collectively” (p. 237).

The subtitle, “Unleashing creative potential for breakthrough results,” calls attention to another natural skill: creativity. The authors noted in the book’s foreword, “among many insights, one undeniable fact has emerged—creative thinking is a teachable and trainable skill” (p. xvi, foreword). Throughout The Innovative Team, Grivas and Puccio demonstrate a unique ability to describe the ways in which the science of creativity holds the key to organizational survival.

The biggest contribution of The Innovative Team is the effortless way in which Grivas & Puccio manage to bring the team of fictional characters to life. The authors place the team of Juan (senior business analyst), Elaine (business analyst), Damon (marketing analyst), Maya (associate business analyst), and Amy (data integration specialist) into a typical organization’s setting, with a writing style that is relatable to every reader. Unlike other books in the genre, which portray teams as experimental subjects utilized to describe confusing observations or complex theories, Grivas and Puccio depict them as real people, with real problems.

The Innovative Team begins as the team is informed by their senior partner, Tony, that their new team leader, Kate, who is in charge of the organization’s innovation efforts, has been assigned to work with the team on their biggest client’s account: Consolidated. Tony starts out by giving the team harsh feedback: “…what we’ve given her [Alicia, the senior VP at Consolidated] so far is nothing that another firm couldn’t have delivered for half the price” (p.16). The team members are surprised: they turned in their recommendation to the client on time, checked their usual sources, and wrote a comprehensive report.

Kate leads the team through the Consolidated challenge using deliberate processes and tools. Grivas and Puccio masterfully guide us through the sequence of the four-stage breakthrough thinking process that “simply puts names on the stages of innovation that we all do naturally” (p.47). We are also given a number of practical tools and concepts along the way to facilitate the journey. Of particular importance is the use of the FourSight framework (www.foursightonline.com), which transforms the team’s dynamics.

FourSight brings awareness to our individual strengths and challenges as we move through the breakthrough thinking process. Each individual in the group (including Kate) feels energized at one point in the process. The group must learn to not just focus on one particular stage when contributing, but to make an effort to work on all the stages to collaborate effectively. The team is very fortunate to have Maya among them who, according to FourSight, is an Integrator, or someone comfortable with all stages. Her all-encompassing preference helps to bridge the gaps between the other members.

Even though, Grivas and Puccio manage to effortlessly, shine a light on what team innovation looks like, the book is not perfect. The authors emphasize the physical characteristics of the individuals down to their dressing style, “…Tony Martin, the senior partner ….cut a handsome figure with his tanned complexion, graying temples, and designer suit” (p.16).  However, their personalities are not as extensively developed. Also, I understand the true purpose of describing their thinking styles as single faceted to illustrate the four FourSight preferences in their purest form. Yet, the pieces of the puzzle come together too quickly.

On the other hand, I give high marks to Grivas and Puccio for backing up the claims they make with well-researched, hard facts in the second half of the book. Using clear explanations and concise bullet points, the authors provide the reader with a common language to describe both the breakthrough thinking process and the FourSight framework for both discourse and application. Also, sprinkled throughout the book are signs of Grivas and Puccio’s passion to demystify creativity as “fantasy,” and to share the power of discovering some of your own solutions trough creative thinking.  Kudos!


Grivas, C., & Puccio, G. J. (2012). The innovative team: Unleashing creative potential for breakthrough results. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

About Adela Vangelisti

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