Great innovations are not achieved by solitary work, in a vacuum, or emerge fully mature when first conceived. Innovations are not the product of a sudden brainstorm from a single individual—a light bulb moment, if you will. Those are sources of ideas. Ideas are only a small part of innovation. Ideas only become innovations through collaboration.
Innovation and collaboration are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they feed and build upon each other.
By definition, innovation is a collaborative process where a diverse collection of people contribute to the implementation of new ideas. History has proved that innovation is most often produced over time with a lot of collective sweat equity by many people. Collaboration with colleagues, partners, or even competitors is what provides the competitive advantage that sets you apart.
John Heywood wrote, “Many hands make light work,”[i] and many minds make new and unique ideas. Great ideas are much more likely to see the light of day when you bring all of the right minds together to solve a challenge or capitalize on an opportunity.
Collaboration helps you develop the ideas you’ve already generated and further refine them. Look at your ideas and ask, could this be adapted or combined with another idea to make it an effective solution? One idea serves as a stepping stone for other ideas.
Collaboration enables you to tap into multiple reservoirs of knowledge and experiences. When someone else’s idea makes you think of a new idea, go for it. At the same time other people can help develop your ideas.
People who are different than you—people who have different skill sets and different areas of strength—can help you build on a concept, point out flaws, or identify other opportunities that could be exploited. Even curious onlookers often have clever ideas for improvement. There’s no limit to how the ideas born of one mind can be used by another.
Think about your collaborative efforts. Are you a pry bar or glue? Do you tear ideas apart or do you bring ideas and people together? Are you just one of the chemicals, or are you the catalyst that creates a chemical reaction?
I’d love to hear from you.
Bob Roitblat helps organizations ignite creativity, overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities. After you’ve left a comment here, continue the discussion. Connect with Bob on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.
© 2016 Bob Roitblat
[i] The Proverbs of John Heywood, 1546, page 114
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