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!


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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