Ingredients for Innovation: Collaboration

Ingredients for Innovation: Collaboration

If you’ve picked up a newspaper recently, you may have noticed every business analyst and political pundit demanding that US companies “innovate” in order to help us remain relevant and growing in an increasingly competitive global market.

Innovate. 

Go ahead.

Have you done it yet?

Asking companies to “innovate” as if innovating were as easy as issuing the simple, imperative sentence vastly discounts the complexity of the task and entirely ignores the web of dynamics that support or impede a company’s ability to be innovative.

To make the task a little less daunting, I’d like to propose an easier place to start.  Here is my simple, imperative, sentence.

Collaborate.

Great workplaces are really skilled at collaboration.  They structure their teams, their communication systems, and even their physical office spaces in a manner that encourages employee interaction.  Many smaller companies (under 1,000 employees) particularly excel in this area – that’s why we’ve chosen to feature so many of these companies to speak at our upcoming conference, Enabling Innovation.  Perhaps size helps but attitude is really at play.

One of the Best Small & Medium workplaces is so intent on collaboration, they actually have three CEOs!  At another company, new products are developed during a collaboration of the design and merchandising teams, ensuring greater success and ease of execution.  Many companies, regardless of size, have instituted social media tools that allow employees to have real-time conversations with each other, a practice that has helped employees find solutions from colleagues outside of their department and initiate informal brainstorms.  And yes, some of these conversations have even yielded outputs that could be considered “innovations.”

If you want to innovate, get people together to share ideas, evaluate the merits of those ideas, and watch those ideas get bigger and better because of the sharing.  Best of all, implementation may be smoother and faster because your team members are all in it together.  The quickest way to innovation may very well be collaboration.