How to apply the 6‘I’s® of innovation to create impactful projects and teams

By Natalie Turner, Author of Yes, You Can Innovate

A question I am often asked when I talk with Managers about using the 6 ‘I’s® Innovation, the Model I invented to help organisations navigate the often complex and chaotic journey of a new idea, is how to apply it in their daily work within smaller projects and teams. There is an obvious case for how it can be used in broader organisational design, but what about at the micro-team level?

The 6‘I’s® Innovation

Firstly, what are the 6 ‘I’s® of Innovation?

  1. IDENTIFY with the mindset of CURIOSITY to spot opportunities by understanding trends and customer needs.
  2. IGNITE ideas with the mindset of CREATIVITY by creating novel solutions.
  3. INVESTIGATE with the mindset of CRITICAL thinking, by developing propositions, prototyping and testing.
  4. INVEST with the mindset of COURAGE by creating business models and plans for investment.
  5. IMPLEMENT with the mindset of COMMITMENT by bringing an idea to life and creating value.
  6. IMPROVE with the mindset of being CLEVER by optimising an idea into another area of opportunity.

Each of the 6 ‘I’s® contributes to the journey that an idea makes, from its inception through to its implementation and improvement, and requires people who have different skills and ways of thinking. Central to the Model is PURPOSE or INTENT. Why are we trying to innovate in the first place, and what is it that we want to accomplish?

Developing innovation mindsets in the team you lead

Everyone in your team can contribute to the innovation journey in one form or another. The challenge is to help them see the importance of this contribution as being innovative. Although there will be those who fit the classic stereotype of being creative (IGNITERS), there will be members of your team who don’t identify themselves as being innovative (often the INVESTIGATORS and IMPLEMENTERS).

An organisation is built up of small groups of people assembled to work together in teams. A starting point in enabling a culture of innovation is to provide a common language and framework where each individual knows how their skills contribute to the overall outcome of what the team is trying to achieve. This can help them to understand that an idea has a journey that flows through different stages, and at certain points, their skills will be absolutely fundamental to making it work.  If you can create a common frame of reference for what it means to be innovative, and how everyone can play a role, then you will start to move the needle and make a difference, one team at a time.

We often find that IMPLEMENTERS and INVESTIGATORS experience a shift in mindset during our Yes, You Can Innovate Programmes. They tell us, “I’m not afraid of innovation anymore. I see where I can contribute, and it is so much more than just being creative.”  One attendee from a recent workshop with Executive Global Network (EGN) in Singapore told us that a key takeaway for them was, “Embrace the INVESTIGATORS, we need them to make sure ideas are useful not just novel.” People high on this innovation style often get excluded as their critical thinking is seen as negative. Helping IGNITERS and INVESTIGATORS collaborate with each other in productive ways will help innovation outcomes to be so much more robust.

Enabling each team member to see the valuable role that they can play in the journey of an idea will help to unlock their mindset, reframe how they view themselves, and realise that they can be, and are, innovators. As well as improving the likelihood of successful projects, it will also improve relationships and team collaboration. The INVESTIGATOR will realise the importance of giving an IDENTIFIER space to envision new possibilities, an IGNITER will realise the value of proactively offering up their ideas to an INVESTIGATOR to analyse and an IMPLEMENTER will be valued for their ability to drive an idea into existence. You will empower your team to engage in the innovation journey.

Break down organisational silos by using 6‘I’s®

What about when projects require cross departmental collaboration? This is a fantastic opportunity to break down silo thinking and harness the diverse skills of people across different functional disciplines. This helps to create a common goal or PURPOSE. You may be pleasantly surprised to find IGNITERs in the Finance Department, or IMPLEMENTERS in strategy or sales.  As the Model is not psychological in nature, but developmental around a perceived set of skills, it breaks down the often stereotyped image we hold of people from a functional level, opening up their ability to contribute in different ways. This too is an opportunity to embed an innovation mindset.

What about assembling a new team?  Use the 6‘I’s® as an ice breaker. This will help you to think through how to engage team members in different stages of the innovation journey and see where they will best contribute, so they can play to their strengths. It will also help you to make decisions based on how to harness team diversity so that ideas move faster towards successful implementation. Involve IGNITERS in brainstorming, regardless of their department. Engage INVESTIGATORS when sorting ideas to test for validation. Get the team to talk to each other about the necessity for diversity and in the process boost self and other awareness.

Embed innovation mindsets at every level in your organisation

The power of creating this common ground within teams is that it helps to provide a framework and language that is separate from departmental functions. It also allows you to invite people to engage positively around a common PURPOSE and, in so doing, to appreciate the value that each style brings to the journey of the idea. This helps to increase the likelihood of successful implementation, build better relationships, break down silos and unlock powerful and impactful solutions.


Want to discover your innovation strengths? Visit for more information, or read my book Yes, You Can Innovate.  I offer practical tips, tools and methods to help boost practical innovation, whether it be on the job, or orientated towards an innovation project – building skills and mindsets along the way.

Follow me on LinkedInto receive more insights into how the 6’I’s® can unlock the innovation culture in your organisation.

© Natalie Turner 2018. All rights reserved.