16th February 2017
In their book, Ideation: The Birth and Death of Ideas, Graham and Bachmann propose a host of ways individuals and organisations can innovate. The list, by no means exhaustive, looks at the revolutionary ideas of Marxism which break away from rational thought, to serendipitous discoveries, like Penicillin, which happen by coincidence and to philosophical ideas which live, mostly, in the minds of the creator.
And while revolution (think how some companies adapt to crisis and evolve as a much stronger organisation) and serendipity (see Groupon's beginning as a 2 for 1 voucher scheme) are central tenets to innovation, it was one entry on the list that, for me, is the most natural fit for how we as modern organisations, with teams across different locations, continually innovate.
Symbiotic Innovation, they define as 'when multiple ideas are combined, using different elements of each to make a whole.'
This definition goes to the heart of what it is to work in today's organisation and 3 words in particular are at its very core.
With the word 'Multiple' it brings to the fore that the sum is better than the individual parts, that knowledge is better shared than in siloes.
It also reminds us that bodies of work and projects are the responsibility of different people, in departments across different locations as well as different people from different organisations like suppliers, vendors and customers.
The ideas part spans the entire creative process of generating, developing, and communicating new ideas, where an idea is understood as a basic element of thought. These ideas that can be either visual (think of all those screenshots, sketches, videos, drawings you have) concrete (lets add component x to y) or abstract (can you imagine if we did x).
What happens to these ideas will depend on lots of different variables: whose idea it was, priorities at the time, time scales, feasibility, willingness, buy-in, ability to move from abstract to concrete.
With the word 'combined' we are reminded of the importance of communication as a key component of innovation, as a tool that lets us to express our thoughts and ideas. Without communication and communications, in all its forms, we can never tap into and make use of the multiple ideas that come from multiple people.
Simply by scratching the surface of the very concept of combining multiple ideas, makes it clear that there's a lot of areas that modern organisations need to think about and explore if they want to use their people to foster innovation. While no two organisations the same there will be common questions that every organisation will need to ask itself before rolling out collaborative whiteboards. Here are just a few to start you thinking...
In the world we strive to create, we want to make it easy for organisations to connect people and develop and actualise ideas.
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