In The Media, Online Media / September 01, 2017

Want to come up with a good idea? The answer lies in diversity and collaboration

This article originally appeared in Smart Company.

“Why didn’t I think of that?” It’s a common catch-cry for anyone reading about small business and entrepreneurs. We all wish we had that billion dollar idea.

Sometimes they seem so simple!  So, what is it that leads to the billion dollar ideas? Creativity, capital, luck … certainly. But research reveals that surrounding yourself with a diverse group of people, and practising (not just preaching) a genuinely collaborative work ethic dramatically improves and increases the flow of good ideas and progressive growth.

In fact, according to a McKinsey & Co report, US public companies with diversity on their board have a 95% higher return on equity than those without.

And the same rings true in the small business world.

Sydney-based entrepreneur, mentor, author and collaboration expert Janine Garner says that for the majority of small businesses, collaboration is a pathway to growth and innovation.

“We are smarter together, we work quicker together and the diversity of opinion, insight and ideas that collaboration brings provides the new thinking and ideation needed to future-proof our businesses in this highly competitive world,” she says.

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“When we embrace the diversity of thinking and ideas – when we openly allow people to share and question – innovation happens, speed to market increases, team engagement lifts and profitability results.

“Those businesses that don’t embrace commercial collaboration end up sitting well and truly in the comfy sofa of status quo. These beige companies deliver beige results, teams and clients become disengaged, they lose sales and a self-perpetuating disaster is likely to eventuate.”

Garner says all small businesses – no matter what industry they operate in – can benefit from diversity and collaboration. Diversity, after all, brings with it a range of backgrounds, experiences, thinking and opinions. Add collaboration to that and you have a potent mix.

“Collaboration is right for every business. The world is moving so quickly – technology evolving, new markets opening up, new businesses popping up to change the landscape in which we are operating,” she says.

“To collaborate effectively, you have to be open, confident and brave. Collaboration does not work if you are ‘faking it till you make it’. Get clear on what you need, what your vision of the future is, what your strengths are and where you need help. Then be brave enough to explore possibility an curious about who can help.”

She says that collaboration might just give small business the edge over bigger companies and corporations too.

“Smaller businesses by the nature of their scale are able to move quicker, be more agile, pivot quicker and make quicker decisions when required.

“Larger businesses on the other hand tend to be challenged by the levels of hierarchy and intensity of processes and procedures often struggling as a result to react quickly to opportunities as they arise.”

Garner’s tips for finding, and making the most of, collaborative opportunities include:

* Get curious; think outside the box when it comes to making new connections and sharing business insight. The best ideas are often found outside your industry or area of expertise.
* Expand your network; engage with a cross functional, cross hierarchy, cross industry network that will stretch your thinking and open the doors to possibility.
* Look to exchange value; we all have something to share whether it be a database, shop locations, skills and expertise, contacts – it doesn’t always have to be money. Share openly and willingly, ask for help and explore ways in which together you can achieve more.

This article originally appeared in Smart Company.

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