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Collaboration: The Secret Hack of Innovators

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

In every lifecycle of a product or service, we strive to tweak it where we highlight the potency of its effectiveness or efficiency. Whether you’re working on a new product, service, or process, what drives its sustainability is the opportunity to have passed thru many hands thru trial and error to create what it is or what it can be at its optimal level. This is how innovation is conceived.

Innovation is about more than coming up with new ideas – it’s about bringing those ideas to life, to test, and to necessity. And that takes collaboration. At the core of innovation, we tend to focus on improving a current process or solving a common problem in which a community has a common pain point. As the solution evolves it needs different perspectives and reactions to incubate and thrive. In some form, that requires an intricate level of collaboration (some intentional, but we'll talk about this later).

Collaboration can be classified as voluntary, consortia, federation, affiliation, and merger and can occur at five different levels: within disciplinary, interdisciplinary, multi-disciplinary, trans-disciplinary, or national vs international (Reference).

Voluntary Collaboration

This form of collaboration is when organizations or individuals agree to work together on a project or initiative but have no formal contractual obligation to do so. This type of collaboration can occur between two or more parties based on mutual benefit or trust. This example most likely occurs in the early stage of an idea where two groups are testing this to make sure it works.

Consortia
Federation
Affiliation

What makes innovation successful?

Let's first dive into what innovation is.

Innovation is the key to staying ahead of the curve, as it allows companies to anticipate and address changing customer demands and stay ahead of industry trends. It can involve developing new products, creating new services, or creating new ways of doing things.

Innovation is a key driver of business growth, as it can create a competitive advantage by allowing companies to stand out from their competitors and capture market share. Many things make innovation successful... But the intentional one is input!


Introducing something new to a community without curating a culture of inclusion that gives the end user a voice,  is the kryptonite of community buy-in.


When creating new technology, although we might feel the sense of newness can solve many problems, it may! But the pivotal part is usually how well this product adapts to the culture of its end user. Being aware of how end users feel in different touchpoints of interaction helps us tweak our programs, products, or services as needed. 

This is why it is so important to have different voices in different touchpoints. Innovation is about more than coming up with new ideas – it’s about bringing those ideas to life and necessity.



Collaboration is a key part of that – Collaboration is essential to driving innovation, whether it’s bouncing ideas off each other, brainstorming solutions to problems,  working on a new product, or service or simply sharing knowledge and expertise teaming up with others the best way to get things done. And while it may seem like a simple concept, collaboration can be a real challenge – after all, it takes effort and communication to make it work. But the payoff is worth it.



"Innovation is about more than coming up with new ideas – it’s about bringing those ideas to life."

And that takes collaboration. Whether you’re working on a new product, service, or process, teaming up with others is the best way to get things done.



Collaboration Starter Kit

What makes for a successful collaboration?


There are a few key ingredients:

First, you need to have complementary skillsets and knowledge bases

Information should be freely shared with team members and stakeholders, while decision-making should be transparent.



Second, effective communication is critical

It's important to create clear communication channels, establish trust, recognize individual efforts, and promote openness.



Third, there needs to be mutual respect among collaborators. 

It's important to take time to build relationships and foster a sense of community among team members.




Without these elements in place, it'll be difficult to achieve your desired outcome- but with them, the sky's the limit!


#1 Collaboration starts in the nucleus


One way organizations might encourage new ideas is to focus on developing a culture of collaboration and creative risk-taking. Encourage teams to work together on a problem, rather than allocating tasks separately. Encourage employees to experiment and don't be afraid to fail. And make sure to reward innovation, even when it doesn't lead to immediate success.


One of our favorite things at Ham Designs is intent in design whether physical or in systems. Organizations orchestrate pathways to drive serendipitous connections by using tools like design thinking or wayfinding


One example is to design intentional spaces of  connections


One example is Pixar's headquarters in California, they designed their bathrooms in the center of the building, and all the food and coffee in the center in an atrium, They were very intentional about wanting people who are artists and animators, and the coders, and the music people, and the screenwriters to be constantly bumping into each other in random ways to spark ideas.” Physical spaces should be designed to support collaboration, and employees should be rewarded for the outcomes of their collaborative efforts. (ref)


The key to productive collaboration is understanding the purpose of the collaboration, setting up an environment that encourages open communication and trust, recognizing the individual efforts of team members while rewarding the outcomes of their collective efforts driving ideas that lead to innovative transitions in products and services and social impact strategies


#2 Collaboration requires curating events of connection

Organizations should actively seek out opportunities to collaborate and share ideas both inside and outside the company, who can provide valuable new perspectives and ideas. Doing so can help to spark creativity and lead to the next big breakthrough. Whether it's through networking events, hackathons, having conversations on the sidelines of meetings, or creating systems that bring people together. Organizations should actively seek out opportunities to collaborate and share ideas both inside and outside the company, who can provide valuable new perspectives and ideas. Doing so can help to spark creativity and lead to the next big breakthrough. Whether it's through networking events, hackathons, having conversations on the sidelines of meetings, or creating systems that bring people together.

#3 Symbiosis requires an exchange

Collaboration should never be extractive where one party feels depleted. As organizations create efforts to partner to develop a concept, research, or idea, it is important to create a negotiation exchange at the collaboration table that stakeholders feel comfortable with.


Currency can play a role in encouraging collaboration. By providing incentives, currency allows people to invest resources in a project while giving them a return on their efforts. Additionally, currency can be used to reward those who make a positive impact on a project. This type of reward system encourages people to work together and can result in better outcomes than would be achieved by working independently.

The use of currency in terms of collaboration has since spread to many different areas. In business, for example, collaborations have become common as companies and organizations search for new ways to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Currency can be used for partnerships, investments, acquisitions, and mergers. In art, the currency is often used as a way to recognize an artist’s work and to compensate them for their efforts. In science, currency can fund research projects, hire teams of scientists and students, and recognize innovations and discoveries.

Put simply, money provides an incentive for collaboration. It's a way people can ensure that their efforts will be met with a reward, and it makes trusting others much easier. In the long run, it encourages people to cooperate and help each other, building a better society. (ref)


Risk




You call it risk we call it kryptonite




Here are some no-gos to consider in collaborating on an innovative project.

Miscommunication


Miscommunication and poor communication skills can create roadblocks in any endeavor. It is important to set a culture where communication is paramount, the foundation on which the business and all its activities are built.




Unclear Responsibilities and Scope of Work

When developing a product together or collaborating on a project, it is important to have clear roles for each member of the team. Is he she or they a lead developer? Do they act as an editor? Are they responsible for photography and marketing? Will they be filling a role as a data scientist expert? Doing this early creates a seamless process.


Each party should also be aware of its goals, resources, and solutions to potential problems. Additionally, they should ensure that everyone is on the same page and establish a level of trust. Each partner must be communicating and uphold their commitments. Finally, clear communication between all collaborators is essential, so that everyone is aware of their roles and any changes made along the way. (ref)


Forgetting to Draft Proprietary Data Usage and IP Documents

Though it may seem like extra work, protecting your intellectual property is vital to last business relationships. Many brands overlook this step, assuming that the friendly nature of a partnership means there's no need for legal agreements and paperwork. However, most projects fail due to a lack of clear expectations or understanding about how much control each party has over their resulting IP.


Forgetting to Negotiate


By setting clear expectations of collaboration, you can inject trust into the negotiation process. Each party brings something to the table, and as a result, it is important to negotiate what you feel is important to you.





Let's Wrap it Up

The best way to encourage collaboration is to foster open communication and foster a culture of trust and respect. Leaders should create an environment that encourages cooperation and collaboration. This can be done by ensuring clear expectations and setting up systems that promote teamwork, such as team meetings and team-building activities. Individuals should also be encouraged to share ideas, ask questions, and give feedback. In addition, effective communication should be promoted to ensure that team members understand each other's expectations and work together towards a common goal.



One More thing

At Ham Designs,

we work with organizations to develop Social Impact Strategies and initiatives. Our unique approach eliminates the stress of creating structure and provides a launchpad for successful implementation.




 

I’m Christele. The founder of Ham Designs. We are a b2b company that serves Healthcare & Social Impact focused organizations by using an empathy lens to create tools that help clients develop campaigns focused on diversity, community engagement, and ecosystem development. Additionally, we offer workshops and consulting services to help our community generate ideas using a human-centered design approach. Our goal is to help companies create initiatives that improve the quality of their clients' lives and the lives of those around them.

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