Importance Of Special-Purpose Teams In Innovation

By Anand Tamboli

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There are some good strategies adopted by the defence forces which can be useful in the corporate sector too. Agility and mission based approach are two things, for instance, that can be of great help to the companies. Read on to find out how these can help.

“I am sorry, gentleman, but I cannot recommend you for the duty in armed forces,” said the high-ranking officer of defense forces from across the long and big office table. In 2004, despite being one of the top three selected candidates, I missed the opportunity to join the IAF (Indian Air Force) by 0.5 on medical terms (long story).

Nonetheless, my interest in learning more about defense, their strategies, and tactics did not fade. I remained curious about how those apply on a day-to-day basis as well as in business. If you have been a fan of the ‘Art of War’ type books, it was something like that for me.

Dig deeper and try to make connections. You will see that corporates can learn from two key characteristics that defense forces exhibit.

Special-Purpose Teams

The first is agility by design. And the second is the mission based approach. These two traits not only make defense teams resilient but also help them in handling disruptions effectively.

Last year I was exploring more on these ideas, particularly the special-purpose teams’ concept. So, I talked to one of my army veteran friends to understand more. A lot of intel I have gathered to form this concept comes from him.

The key is to understand and acknowledge that agility by design and using a mission based approach can make your business resilient. It will also help you in handling disruptions more effectively.

Agility by design and using a mission-based approach can make your business resilient.

How does it work?

For any defense mission, at least three things are critical. Tasks, resources, and success guarantee. It is much the same for business projects too. Each defense mission begins with a small team. That team follows three high-level steps.

The first step is intelligence gathering. It is also known as probing. At this stage, the team is relatively small and may have only three or four cross-functional experts. The goal is not to take any action, only watch and learn. Probe, if necessary, to gather more intelligence.

Once the information is gathered after probing, it is converted to wisdom or insights, as they would call it in data-analytics parlance. And they start gathering actionable intelligence. Something that can be used to take significant action. Something that is more reliable and can guarantee success. The team often uses SWOT analysis to direct their efforts and utilise resources efficiently.

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