Alexander Graham Bell may get credit for inventing the telephone, but he didn’t do it alone. In fact, Bell’s final patented invention was the result of the hard work and dedication of an endless team of inventors spanning decades. And while the telephone might be one of the most iconic innovations of the modern age, it is by no means the only example of how collaboration and teamwork make things happen.
From the invention of the wheel (we’re guessing), to the Internet (sorry, Al Gore), collaboration and teamwork is what fuels innovation. But why?
The idea of teamwork and collaboration has been instilled in us for our entire lives. When we’re children, we’re told to play nicely with others, to share, and to listen. Our main purpose on this planet was to not be that lonely kid in the sandbox. But as we grow up, we tend to put up walls, horde our ideas, and forget about that proverbial sandbox. Who would’ve thought that the lessons we learned as a child would be the blueprints for a successful venture? Here’s why:
Behind every problem are a handful of potential solutions. The most appropriate solution is typically a hybrid of several ideas merged together. Collaboration helps to nurture association between these ideas. If everyone on your team brainstormed in a bubble, the end result would be a dozen or so okay ideas, none of which gel to create a complete solution. By breaking down walls and opening doors, your team can make associations and connections between threads of thoughts. You might get an idea from something your colleague said. Then she might build on your idea. Then someone across the table will polish it off with something else. With an all-hands-on-deck approach, magic happens.
The fastest runner in the world would likely have his worst time if he had no one to race against. That’s because humans, by nature, respond to healthy competition and encouragement. While your team might be made up of genius innovators and doers, their potential is limited if you keep them segregated. By working together, individuals are encouraged to push harder, think bigger, and come up with that one, solid idea that will take the entire group by storm.
Behind every good idea and innovation were countless mistakes, errors and miscalculations. When you collaborate within a team, you have the opportunity to test out those bad ideas like a slugger during batting practice. This streamlines the entire creative process. Rather than brainstorm alone, toss out your ideas to your team, go back to the drawing board, and repeat the process incessantly, your team can boost its productivity by collaborating, critiquing, and correcting in one fell swoop. Through this process, the best ideas will rise to the top faster, making your company more effective.
Decades ago, to collaborate would mean having to sit in the same room together. To this day, that’s typically the most effective way to work cohesively. The buzz and energy that percolates inside a brainstorming room is electric and contagious. But in today’s mobile world, that isn’t always a possibility. Luckily, a great deal of tools exist that allow teams that are hundreds – if not thousands – of miles apart collaborate with one another as if they’re in the same room.
Apps like Sync Pad – a real-time collaboration tool that transforms your mobile device into a virtual whiteboard – and Igloo – an intranet application that serves as a file sharing, calendar, blog, social media, and wiki tool, all wrapped into one dashboard – can’t fully replace real-world collaboration, but they do help make this world a little smaller.
What it comes down to is a simple math equation. Two is greater than one. With one mind at the helm, you may come up with an idea or solution that works. But do you really want to settle with good enough? With the minds of many behind the wheel, there is no limit to where the journey will take you.