Collaborate to Innovate

Like "innovation," "collaboration" is an overused word. Yet collaboration and sustainable innovation are critical to a company’s business success. According to a 2008 report from IBM, approximately 75% of CEOs cited collaboration as important to their innovation efforts, but a little more than half said they practice collaboration to a large extent—leaving significant room for increased collaboration in the future.

Collaboration does foster innovation. Imagine a multinational company with hundreds of researchers, scientists, and partners who are geographically dispersed, speaking in different languages and working on various innovation initiatives. Often they may be working in silos, not utilizing internal and external expertise.

So, how do you build a collaborative innovation culture?

1. Encourage people to ask questions and get better insight into a problem. Look beyond your team members for answers so you can build on existing ideas. Look at issues from a different perspective and accelerate ideation to product creation.

2. Use technology that effectively connects engineers and scientists in various parts of the world and gives visibility to an individual’s thinking process in real time.

3. Leverage innovation software with integrated collaboration technology so it can identify experts, mine knowledge, and deliver concepts from other industries to solve problems or design new products.

4. Hire people who are not afraid to challenge your ideas and offer new solutions. Avoid "yes" personalities and tolerate temporary disharmony to get better results.

5. Create a structured innovation process that can also harness baby boomers’ expertise before they walk out the door. After all, innovation intelligence is key to driving collaboration and sustainable innovation.

6. Celebrate success. You’ve earned it.

Mark Atkins CEO and chairman Invention Machine Boston

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