Interactions, not individuals, drive breakthroughs

A key skill all innovators have is the ability to network with the objective of developing ideas, finding collaborators, bouncing ideas off others and overall just building their ideas. Rather than being individualists, innovators are collaborators. They understand that it takes a diverse community of people working on a single problem to drive breakthroughs; as opposed to a single hardworking individual:

It’s not the raw creativity or herculean intellect of an inspired individual that solves problems. It’s the interaction between that individual and others that leads to epiphany. Most scientific and artistic innovations or breakthroughs emerge from joint thinking, impassioned conversations, constructive conflict and shared struggles among different people.

This is probably the one fact you can count on of what is necessary to make true innovation happen because creativity doesn’t happen in one person’s head, rather in the interaction between a person’s thoughts and their context. Collaborating with individuals from different disciplines allows you to see the issue from a new perspective; which drives the potential for better ideas.

Both internally or externally collaborating with people from other domains forces you to learn new things, acquire different perspectives and accelerate innovation. And though we are living in the age of networks, for both personal and work, the “not invented here” syndrome is still pervasive across all types of businesses. So, collaboration is still a competitive advantage to businesses that understand that innovators tend to work with and bounce ideas off others, solve problems by combining different kinds of expertise.

Still, I also believe that a very important component of strong and productive collaboration is there needs to be space for individual solitude before getting into a collaborative space with other people. Some of us need time alone to let our thoughts simmer before we bounce our ideas off other people. As I see it, innovation happens as a result of looking inside and outside ourselves, each having a constant, circular flow between the inner and outer. BOTH are needed, BOTH feed each other.

It’s damn hard to find that balance!

If you are set on innovating, as a business leader, your job is to develop a deep appreciation for different disciplines. Heck, lead by example and develop some new skills that you can add to you arsenal. Do that, and innovation will be as common as the perfect weather we have in San Diego California 😉