Collaboration is the key to innovation

The key to innovationSEATTLE – August 5, 2013

If you believe that mastering collaboration is the key to succeed in creating innovative and thriving businesses, I’d like to hear what you mean by it and how do you actually collaborate.

There is a general assumption that we know what collaboration means but I think it is a skill set that needs some “unpacking”. I believe that while women are wonderfully talented in sharing and friendship making, more often than not, they get a failing grade at collaboration that leads to innovation. Let me explain what I mean.

There are three areas that especially women need to work on.

1. Reciprocity. Collaboration succeeds only if the partners give and take; in other words, we need not only offer help but also know when to ask for help and learn to take it when offered. Women are super-skilled in offering help, caring for everyone’s wellbeing. However, we are not as skilled at asking for help, or knowing when to turn to others for assistance. There are many reasons for this, but one is economical. Women still earn less than men in most areas so, the fact remains that women try to stretch every penny and do themselves as much as possible. Asking for help is a multifaceted thing.

2. Commitment. There is the word “labor” in collaboration. And it means hard work. Women who have given birth know this intimately. Laboring to give birth takes tears, sweat, pain, pushing through with a total commitment. You cannot change your mind and give up in the middle of the labor pains. After the pain, the result is magical. Similarly, collaboration takes more commitment than many women are prepared for, because you have to stick together through the tough times, too.

3. Boundaries. Collaboration requires solid self-esteem. At an individual level, those who are great collaborators, also have an understanding and acceptance of who they are.  Their generosity derives from their confidence. Their view of themselves is not threatened or diluted by joining with others.  People who struggle with their personal insecurities, are non-committing and carry wishy-washiness into relationships.  The same stands for companies. When a company has a clear and strong brand, they are not afraid to collaborate and create alliances with an abundance mentality because they won’t be minimized by the joint venture partner.

Are you – and your team – strong in all three? We will succeed in the innovation economy only if we learn to truly collaborate. Even President Obama was recently calling for real conversations – he has understood that we need a collective awakening toward a more collaborative culture as a nation.

As a part of the Women in Innovation service offerings, we’re building a WIN-Collaborate to Innovate Lab – a place for the best thinking and best practices, as well as a toolkit and support for those who want to master collaboration either as individual leaders or as companies.  I believe that collaboration is the way forward to an innovation fostering win-win culture within and between companies.

Would you be interested in contributing to our toolkit as we crowdsource for the best practices? Would you like to share a story that highlights either a success or a failure in collaboration in the innovation process? Are you interested in participating in the process of making the Collaborate to Innovate Lab a reality?

If you do, please email us and we’ll connect with you soon.

– Kristiina Hiukka, Founder