The Collective Effort of Creativity in Ideation

With our ever increasing aptitude for technology, CEO’s and thought leaders are on the hunt for the next big idea; that one product or service that will revolutionize an industry.

Recently, Fast Company released “The 100 Most Creative People in Business,” a list recognizing the innovative accomplishments of notable individuals; from people like Charles Arntzen – for pioneering the engineering of tobacco to fight Ebola, and Ertharin Cousin –  who introduced communication technology to end hunger in impoverished communities, to Sophie Lebrecht – whose company developed an algorithm that can determine what image will go viral,  and Kevin Wells – for implementing new features to the social media platform Twitter.

Given the rate of innovation today, some of these accomplishments can seem both simultaneously awe-inspiring and ordinary. Products and services are quickly becoming more efficient and convenient to the consumer market with each passing year, and it seems like there’s something new being released every other week. Why is it then, that so many companies struggle to find just a single innovative idea?

Origin stories for revolutionary ideas, products, and services are typically portrayed as the result of hard work and passion from a single individual, such as the reclusive genius or the overlooked underdog with a dream. It’s a familiar story rife with dramatic tension, and this type of biography, fictional or otherwise, has become widely disseminated in Western culture.

While these stories can often be very inspirational, rarely are these kinds of success stories the result of a group effort, leaving many to believe that collaboration isn’t a part of the innovative process.

However, one of the crucial steps towards true innovation is ideation, a collaborative process that requires the joint participation of a company’s New Product Development (NPD) and Leadership Team Development (LTD) departments. Visionaries are crucial to any company, but so is the collective effort.

In an interview with one of the listed creative pioneers, Sibyl Goldman remarks on one of the surprising things about her job:

“I think it might surprise people to know that our work space is so open that I often share a desk space with people on my team, much to their dismay. We kind of pile together in one space and there is truly no physical structure that defines where we are, where we go, how we work. We’re so fluid and flexible, which can take some adjusting, but once you adjust to it, can be so great. I get a lot of my creative inspiration from the people I work with, so working close together makes sense.”

Though it’s not necessary to operate in such close proximity to one another, this quote provides insight into the integral nature of teamwork regarding innovation. This is further underscored by the risk-taking nature of the ideation process, which requires both the New Product Development and Leadership Team Development groups to work in sync with each other. A diversity of skill sets and experiences also contributes towards the success of a given company’s brand, product line, and/or service as remarked by Thomas Dimson of Instagram:

“I think it would surprise people the level of diversity that we have at Instagram of people. My team has probably eight or nine PhDs on it. We have engineers that have absolutely no college experience, we have people that work in creative writing, we have all these different jobs. And I think that it’s actually kind of interesting to see all the different things that go in to making it such a successful company. It’s not just the great engineering or it’s not just great management or whatever. It’s really like there’s just such a level of diversity in terms of experiences that I find that’s pretty surprising to me.”

For a more thorough explanation of the innovation process, please visit:

Robert’s Rules of Innovation. Be sure to check back for the forthcoming Robert’s Rules of Innovation, Volume II.

-Workshops and online webinars through the Innovation as a System™ Seminar Series. See:

image credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg

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