I’ve just started reading “Collective Genius: the art and practice of leading innovation” by Linda Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove and Kent Lineback. I’m only a few pages in, but one of the key leadership capabilities they describe for cultivating innovation in companies is “creative abrasion” for collaboration:
“The process of innovation needs to be collaborative because innovations most arise from the interplay of ideas that occur during the interactions of people with diverse expertise, experience of points of view”
Last week, I went along to the Hacking Happiness Summit – an event that brought together the topics of entrepreneurship, technology, psychology, neuroscience, health and wellbeing. I went primarily with a personal interest, but as the event progressed it was clear that most of the ideas presented by the speakers were also hugely relevant for creativity, teams and collaboration.
Even though the central theme was happiness, it was also more broadly about gaining a better understanding of how we work as humans (e.g. how can we enjoy our work more? How can we avoid burnout?), so that we can be more effective and productive.
One statistic in particular, from the Intuit study on the future of work (pdf), has been making the rounds – that more than 40% of US workers will be freelancing by 2020. The number of freelancers is increasing, as is the technology that supports virtual working and communication. Online marketplaces such as Elance, Guru, and Peopleperhour are changing the face of work by enabling businesses to access creative talent on a short-term basis – saving them money and getting quick results. At the same time, these sites create opportunities for individuals to develop a freelance career and achieve a flexible working lifestyle.
Whilst this movement is helping companies to get a wide range of jobs done, they often tend to be smaller, specific tasks. By thinking on such a ‘micro’ basis, are companies missing out on the higher level of value that can be offered by freelancers? Tim Brown of IDEO offered an opinion on making the most of freelancers here and here.
Collaboration and business can seem to be at odds with each other – the former about sharing and mutual gain, the latter often associated with individualism and competition. But when entrepreneurs choose to work on a project with others it can be extremely beneficial – they gain exposure to new ideas, share resources and learn new skills.
As a Collaboration Catalyst (the theme for April), you might see great opportunities to bring experts to work together on specific projects. So what can you do to increase the chances of success?
For a simple and quick way to demonstrate the effects of collaboration to a large group, here’s an ice-breaker exercise that I sometimes use at the beginning of talks and guest lectures. It’s a slight variation on the paperclip exercise designed by Tony Buzan, mind and thinking expert, to help people engage in creative thinking.
In my last post “The messiness of creativity“, I looked at how organisations need to get comfortable with chaos in order to innovate, particularly when bringing diverse people together. This is difficult when they also need to become more productive and efficient as they grow.
Do you want an outlet to exercise your thinking and play with creative ideas? A hackathon-inspired event could be the answer. Hackathons (also called ‘hack days’) are 24-48 hour events where developers come together to produce a mobile or web app in response to a brief or problem. Although hack days tend to be technology-oriented, there are also events that encourage multi-disciplinary teams, inviting other creative producers and thinkers to contribute their skills in problem-solving and making.