We innovators are a mixed up lot. We hold two very different beliefs strongly:
1. We believe that the person in their garage can create something truly unique.
2. We believe that ideas are sharpened as we collaborate.
But as I have watched the debate around the Stimulus package for the US economy, I have seen these two beliefs hit head on. Each politician has cooked up what they think are the key elements. They throw them into the pot and try to make them better. But as happens many times, the ideas that get thrown in don't always come out better. Sometimes they just get convoluted and watered down.
So how do we bridge these two truths - because there is no doubt that they are both valid.
I think that it has mostly to do with how you go about your innovation. Here's what I mean. If you let an idea develop too long on it's own, collaboration is unlikely. Conversely, if you don't seed a concept into a group, they may not do anything productive.
Timing is critical. You have to give each member enough time to understand the challenge and process, but bring them together before the ideas are no longer pliable. What that suggests to me is that there is a window where ideas are developed enough to be good raw material but not so developed that people can't collaborate.
So what might it look like to define this window. You might ask some of the following questions:
1. What do people need to know/process in order to be valuable collaborators?
2. Do those I am engaging have long-standing opinions and ideas about the topic?
3. Is the idea too far along or the deadline too close to have authentic collaboration?
4. Is collaboration a benefit to this innovation or is the speed of a single innovator more valuable?
As you ask these things, look for that window between individual innovation and collaborative innovation. See what can happen when you are proactive about these two truths.