Breaking the Myths Of Isolated Innovation

By Seth Getz on February 28th, 2014 / Comments

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” -Henry Ford, Ford Motor Company Founder

Entrepreneurship and innovation are social processes. Yes, we can come up with ideas in isolation, but working with others helps us make them a reality. Social interaction spurs the thinking process, making us aware of problems and potentials we may not have noticed before.

Our ideas come to life as we critique and improve upon each other’s plans, but we get stuck in a rut without feedback. We need the energy that comes from sharing our ideas with others. Otherwise, we lose sight of the big picture as we spin our wheels, unable to take our ideas to the next level. Why do we keep doing this to ourselves? What keeps us from creating and getting involved in the social aspects of innovation?

1. We believe innovation comes from isolation.
We are taught that we need to get away from distractions in order to be creative, and to an extent this is true. We all come up with great ideas in isolation, but what matters is what comes next. I know I come up with great ideas while in the shower, but unfortunately when I get out and get on with my day most of those ideas drop dead. By the next morning, I may not even remember them. What if I was around someone else and quickly shared my ideas? If my thoughts were embraced within a group of coworkers, I’d be a lot more likely to hold on to them.  Positive feedback gives us the energy that allows our ideas to gain traction.

2. We worry that someone will steal or criticize our ideas.
Fear keeps us from sharing our ideas. What are we so worried about? Perhaps we think someone will take our ideas and run faster with them than we can. Maybe we fear the inevitable criticism that comes with opening our ideas to the world. Can we handle people critiquing our “babies?” At first it might be hard, but unless we share our ideas and risk feedback, it’s unlikely that they will ever become a reality.

Don’t try going it alone, we all have this image of a solitary Thomas Edison toiling away in his workshop, but what we should be visualizing is the little-known group of 50+ innovators that came to work with him from all over the globe. Together, they created a culture of innovation that allowed them to literally shed light on the world. Finding other people who are innovative thinkers and getting together with them on a regular basis allows us to create an energy and buzz that can never be rivaled.

3. Sharing ideas leads helps them grow.
So, how should we start sharing our ideas? Many turn to online forums, but internet connections can never beat face-to-face conversations and close physical proximity. When we work together in the same space, challenging ideas flow and bounce around at an accelerating pace, creating a culture of innovation.  Having lunch or coffee with other innovative people allows us to spark new ideas and refine old ones, and spending a day working together enables even more to be done.

Put yourself out there! Connect with the sort of people who bring these organizations to life. Find the ones who challenge your way of thinking the most, and work with them every day if you can. As James Cash Penney (the man who had the idea for a little thing called the department store) once said, “growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.”

Photo via Warehouse Holland.

About the Author

Seth Getz

Seth Getz is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for small businesses and the people who start them. He is cofounder of Warehaüs Business Center, a vibrant co-working space for creative entrepreneurs located in Holland, Michigan. You can learn about @SethGetz on twitter or on his blog, sethgetz.comsethgetz.com, and for more about Warehaüs visit the website, warehausholland.com.