Collaborate to Innovate

Have you ever wondered how you, your team, or your organization can improve your ability to innovate? Maybe it is time for you to look at your capacity for collaboration.

Innovation is about implementing an idea to create value for an individual, an organization, society or any combination of these. Collaboration is when two or more people are committed to and engaged in working together towards a worthy goal. Just like you can’t have innovation without creativity, you can’t have collaboration without creativity. I define creativity as generating new and useful ideas. If you aren’t generating new and useful ideas, then you are not truly collaborating. Similarly, you need a new and useful idea before you can innovate which is simply implementing an idea to create value. Therefore, one way to innovate is to collaborate.

Please note that you can have creativity without innovation. This basically means that not every idea implemented will create value. Anyone who has worked in research and development or product development has learned this lesson more often than they are probably willing to admit. Similarly, you can have creativity without collaboration. However, I believe that creativity with collaboration is much more likely to lead to innovation then creativity without collaboration. My personal experience supports this. Also, Keith Sawyer has written a book called Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration.

There are three things to understand before you collaborate to innovate.

First, trust is the foundation for a high-performing team. The more important or challenging a team’s objective or purpose, the more high performing that team needs to be. Bayer MaterialScience thought trust was important enough to offer a “High Performance Team Workshop” centered on building trust. The workshop included a team assessment and discussion of what trust is. The workshop also used Patrick Lencioni’s “Five Dsyfunctions of a Team” to help frame the discussion. A powerful take-away for me from this workshop was my tendency to have an overpacked agenda which limits discussion while discussion is a primary means to build trust and buy-in and have performance driven by the team rather than by the team leader.

Second, trust is the key element to Steven M. R. Covey’s coordination-collaboration continuum. The continuum provides a model for how a team is performing going from coordination at one extreme with cooperation in the middle and collaboration at the other extreme. Covey defines coordination as people working together, talking and synchronizing with limited scope because there is limited trust. Covey defines cooperation as coordination with a bit more give and take due to more listening and influencing than in cooperation. Finally, Covey defines collaboration as true partnership based on a relationship of trust between the participants. Covey also suggests that evidence for the presence of trust in a team is participants:

  • seek first to understand and then to be understood (active listening),
  • show respect for all opinions,
  • are open and transparent,
  • clarify expectations, and
  • are accountable for responsibilities.

Third, there is an art and science to collaboration. The art is the emotional intelligence to practice active listening, respect for all opinions, openness, expectation clarification, and accountability. The science is the proven methods and means for collaboration. For example, the body of research work behind the creative problem solving approach used and taught by CPSB (Creative Problem Solving Group of Buffalo). Furthermore, the emerging field of social neuroscience is providing new science-based findings such as the importance of both emotional and cognitive connection as a basis for collaboration.

Collaboration harnesses the power of human connection to innovate. Contact Valerie at 412-742-9675 or to learn more.