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Collaboration to Sustained Innovation

Ever heard the term “design by committee” or “coblaberation” or “groupthink?” Just because you gather a bunch of people together does NOT ensure that the resulting dialogue and action will be stellar. In fact, there is a danger that the sum won’t even add up to the individual parts let alone exceed them! Someone recently told us that there is just as much chance that a group is defined by it’s weakest link as it is defined by its strongest.

What’s the lesson here?  Don’t take group work for granted.  A community is not made just by rubbing shoulders together…nor is it evidenced by collective, unattached agreement. Partly based on the work of Keith Sawyer (Group Genius, 2007), here are some insights into what activities keep groups innovative.

10 secrets of innovation in Collaborative Groups.

  1. Build spaces for creative conversation – we dedicated a section of our book to this (pg 130-137) and provide ideas for framing talking time.
  2. Allow time for ideas to emerge …go slow to go fast, you can’t rush creativity and innovation.
  3. Balance improvisation with planning – sustain a core vision with long term goals to help avoid being fragmented with a million great ideas. Use that vision to intelligently select the ideas that have the most value and traction.
  4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – generate many ideas and keep several of them active. When times change, you’ll be better prepared to be responsive.
  5. Seek diversity – a wide range of knowledge, skills, experiences and perspectives in a group increases the chances for innovation.
  6. Act like a network, not a clique. Once you head down the road of homogeneity with a “member” mind-set, the more you will risk group think and stagnation. Have fun together – but not too much fun. There is often an illusion of group effectiveness when group cohesiveness is high. Instead – grow, learn, adapt, connect, challenge and evolve!
  7. Share leadership by ditching a rigid organizational chart – bring your strengths, not just your job title.
  8. Measure the right things – evaluation has the potential to be a meaningful tool for sustaining engagement and blossoming further innovative ideas.
  9. Seek the unexpected – both your greatest success and your biggest learning (aka mighty disaster) are often things that weren’t part of the original plan. Examine your experiences to find the differences that make the difference.
  10. Know yourself, know your group and THEN pick your process.

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