Collaborative innovation

Innovation in the context of modern products and services increasingly requires collaboration across departments. Successful collaborative ventures share common features. Successful teams are managed by managers that encourage employees to be creative, assertive, curious, and innovative. Teams in all departments are filled with T-shaped design thinkers who exhibit both a depth of skill (the vertical line in the T) and a disposition for collaboration across departments (the horizontal line in the T).

Successful teams practice deep listening. They withhold prejudgments about colleagues' ideas. Additionally, they judge ideas based upon their merits, and not based upon who developed them. Nevertheless, ideas that create a popular buzz receive more attention. While properly staffed, trained, and managed teams can cross-collaborate, excessive collaboration is unnecessary and can be quite damaging to efficiency. For this reason managers should foster an overall spirit of collaboration but should not confuse collaboration with innovation. The former is a means to the later, an end. Unnecessary collaboration for collaboration's sake is, at best, wasteful of resources, and at its worst a drag on innovation.


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