Think about all the times you’ve tried to come up with a really cool, awesome, mind blowing idea…alone. We’ve all tried to do it, but, if you’re like me, the effort probably ended in frustration and a batch of half-baked ideas. Then you start talking to your friends about your ideas. One person suggests something, then that inspires another tangent, and then…you have some really amazing things.
That’s team-fueled innovation at work.
Of course there are a few brilliant people in this world who come up with amazing ideas and innovations on their own (I’d put Nicola Tesla in that camp), but there is a reason why these people are heralded as epic geniuses—people like that are extremely rare. The rest of us innovate best when we have other people to work with. People who we toss an idea out to and they take it add to it and then toss it back to you and eventually something amazing comes out. It’s that essential interplay that comes from different people with different perspectives coming together to mix and become new and amazing.
This is what good teams do—they innovate together. Alone each of us are bound by our own internal biases, preconceptions, and ideas so it makes it truly difficult to break out of those patterns and conceive of something completely new. Then are are virtual teams—groups of people who don’t typically work in the same physical location. How do those teams foster inspiration and creativity, when the team members aren’t together? Turns out, in exactly the same way as physical teams do—and sometimes without even knowing it.
Case in point—this post.
So, here I am working on the second post on the Nugg Manifesto (here is the first post on Teams of teams) and I make it to about the 200-word mark and…the tank runs dry. I just don’t know where else to go with the post. I’m stuck. Then I read a post N-Q started on our Team Performance LinkedIn group: “Virtual teams are being more common” and another by Steven: “Debate: Real creative breakthroughs come from individual effort, even if they are implemented by teams.” and something clicked.
Here we are a virtual team (sure we’re meeting in person later this week) and I’m needing something creative (I think creativity and innovation can be used interchangeably here) and ta-da I have it! How? Communication tools and virtual discussions. Several lessons to be learned here. One: virtual teams can still inspire and innovate if they build the tools and mechanisms to discuss, collaborate, and connect with each other. Two: regular teams can use virtual team tools to inspire and innovate when they can’t be together (like in the middle of the night, weekends, during meetings, solo work, etc.).
You can’t beat being able to be an innovative team—inspiring creativity and fresh ideas—all the while working from wherever is the best place and time for you to work.
Here are some sketches of early versions of the main image…teamwork and innovation in practice: