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Can innovation be bred in a group or is it an individual effort?

Spotted this question on a discussion on Linkedin and thought I’d repost my answer here and hopefully get your thoughts. (Linkedin group is open so anyone can comment there too Winking smile)

Great question. Ideation geared towards innovating can happen at both levels but I think it’s important to separate creativity from innovation. True innovation (execution of idea) happens with a group. Ideation (creativity) can be done individually and in most cases this is where ideas are born. A small group of committed and passionate people then help refine it.

What is important to consider is that when brainstorming in a group it is less effective as ‘group think’ takes over, so a better approach is to come up with ideas individually and then bring them into a collaborative environment. It’s also important to have themes (objectives) to shoot at as these will provide context for discussion. Once the ideas are in the collaborative environment the real fun begins. Ideas are just the beginning, getting people to buy into them and then help you execute is the key.

Another area of importance when talking about groups is creating serendipity. For example being in this discussion is a form of serendipity, and we as a group might come up with an idea by commenting back and forth. So this also needs to be taken into consideration as to how the idea formed.

Bottom line: Innovation is a team game!

Thoughts?

UPDATE: Jonah Lehrer wrote up a great posts in which he argues that: “The era of the lone genius is coming to an end.” – Teamwork is becoming the heart of innovation. It’s a must read!

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  • Thomasfauvel

    Contrary to many legends, the “Eurêka” happens rarely when acting alone. The transformation into a product is impossible without opening the project to others.

    • http://game-changer.net Jorge Barba

      Hi Thomas,

      There have been a few exceptions to the rule. As Ned points out Thomas Edison is one of those people but it this is a rarity.

      Bottom line is it’s a combination of both.

      Cheers,

      Jorge

  • Ned Kumar

    Hi Jorge,
    I think the answer would depend a lot on one’s definition of innovation. If one were to look at folks like Edison, the argument can be made that innovations can take place working alone. But then again, one can debate as you said on whether it is really innovation or just creativity/ideation.

    I think both are needed though to take it to execution, it is invariably a team effort. Also, one of the contributing factors might also be what exactly one is trying to innovate.

    Regards,
    Ned

    • http://game-changer.net Jorge Barba

      Hi @NedKumar,

      Yes Edison is an exception but a rarity. And as you point out, Edison had a distinct ability to know what he wanted to innovate so this also contributed to his success among other things.

      I think it’s really a combination of both individual and group. The idea being born in an individuals mind and then helped refined by a group at some point.

      Cheers,

      Jorge

  • Ned Kumar

    Hi Jorge,
    I think the answer would depend a lot on one’s definition of innovation. If one were to look at folks like Edison, the argument can be made that innovations can take place working alone. But then again, one can debate as you said on whether it is really innovation or just creativity/ideation.

    I think both are needed though to take it to execution, it is invariably a team effort. Also, one of the contributing factors might also be what exactly one is trying to innovate.

    Regards,
    Ned

  • Ned Kumar

    Hi Jorge,
    I think the answer would depend a lot on one’s definition of innovation. If one were to look at folks like Edison, the argument can be made that innovations can take place working alone. But then again, one can debate as you said on whether it is really innovation or just creativity/ideation.

    I think both are needed though to take it to execution, it is invariably a team effort. Also, one of the contributing factors might also be what exactly one is trying to innovate.

    Regards,
    Ned

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