Unlocking Innovation (Part VI of VI): Don’t tackle it alone

This is a section of a six-part series of articles that focuses on unpacking the complexity of innovation and showing the reality that innovation is attainable to everyone. Our goal from this series is to spark conversations and get people to look at innovation, creativity, and leadership from a different perspective.

Innovation, it really is a team sport

Innovation, like pretty much everything, is better when you work with other, now this might just be the collaboration focus of Roman 3, but there is so much value in the adages: “many heads are better than one” and “more hands make less work”. We need to be open to leveraging the skills and perspective of others in order to make true and meaningful changes and advance our knowledge and impact. This means that we often need to lift our heads out of our work and look for others to collaborate with. For a lot of us, this is hard; collaboration takes time, creates a slower process, limits individual control, requires extensive relationship management, and requires us to keep our egos in check. For many, these sacrifices are too much to seriously try to bring others in to cooperate with us. But those of us who are committed to innovation, we understand these short-term inconveniences are the cost of doing business because we are not looking to satisfy our short-term comfort. We are here to play the long game.

The long-term benefits of making innovation a team sport

A collaborative approach to innovation is something that requires sacrifices, short term discomfort, and ongoing maintenance, but what are the benefits? To answer this, let’s take a look at some important, yet not groundbreaking, methods that have been shown to nurture a culture of collaborative innovation.

Collective Impact:

According to the Tamarack Institute, in the past few decades leaders from community and industry have come together to engaged in cross-sector collaborations that aim to uncover and address some of the largest and universally significant challenges; ranging from poverty to education, to the environment. The methods that created success for these groups have been consolidated and given the label of Collective Impact. The definition of Collective Impact is: a framework containing five core elements. These include the development of a common agenda; use shared measurement to understand progress; build on mutually reinforce activities; engage in continuous communications and provide a backbone to move the work forward. 

The practical application of collective impact is to gather a team of stakeholders, identify a common vision, create agreed-upon benchmarks for success, put cooperative plans into action, promote effective communication both internally and external to the stakeholders, and develop a sustainable framework that can be shared and replicated. The key to the success of collective impact is both the diversity of the stakeholders, to get a wide range of expertise and perspectives, and the increased engagement and buy-in from those that the change effects.

When the shared vision is to create something that will innovate; this simple, yet meaningful, method will inherently create significant prospects for success.


According to Investopedia, coopetition is a business ideology taken directly from insights gained from game theory. Coopetition games are statistical models that consider the ways in which synergy can be created by partnering with competitors. It is kind of like sibling rivalry, or competition within family, where the overall goal is to increase the success of all parties. There is also a secondary friendly competition that adds an extra level of motivation and lifts the game of all involved. This can look like three cafes that occupy the same busy street corner. Instead of being in direct completion with each other and trying to each get a bigger slice of the existing customer base, they all come together to increase the customer base. They look at their competitive advantages; all look to develop their niche and market directly to their different specific demographic. Then they combine efforts to market their area to a broader audience, cross-promote, engage in friendly promotional competitions, and work together to lift all of their profiles. They would fully understand that what is good for the group is good for the individual.

Collaborative innovation network (CoIN):

According to MIT, advances in communications and technology have built the capacity for huge numbers of people all over the planet to work together in new ways. This creates the ability for “Collective Intelligence”. Collective intelligence is a perspective that can be applied to many different kinds of phenomena. For instance, it suggests another way of thinking about things like organizational effectiveness, firm productivity, firm profitability, teamwork, and leadership. The way to facilitate this collective intelligence is through the development of Collaborative Innovation Networks, or CoINs. We have seen similar structures like this before; this is similar to Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding, and large scale beta testing.

By having the foresight to dedicated resources to bringing like-minded or goal-aligned individuals and organizations together, we can develop the infrastructure to mobilize the collective intelligence of the engaged. Innovation comes from creative open-minded thinkers, motivated to take calculated risks, all pulling the rope in the same direction. If we intentionally recruit the collective minds, resource and stakeholders that will actively engage in helping grow innovative ideas, we can accelerate and foster the innovation that we all seek. Instead of looking for collaborators and people to help with our idea once we are developing it, we could build our CoIN before we need it and leverage the collective intelligence of our network and truly support and validate the thinkers who will lead us into our collective future.

The Takeaway

Innovation in isolation is not just challenging, some would say it is downright impossible. We collaboration not only to generate buy-in and support, but we also need help. There is always more than enough work to go around and there is always enough credit for all. A common reason to not to see collaboration as an essential part of innovation is often about egos and unwillingness to share the credit. Innovation for credit sake is short-sighted and likely unsustainable. Maybe our motivation should be the first thing we self check when we are starting the journey. Are we looking to change lives, change people, and change the world? Or are we looking to get famous and get paid? If you understand the true reality of what it takes to unlock innovation and you are looking to do it for the right reasons, your road map for success should become clear.

To learn more about models and opportunities for organizations to collaborate check out our 13-part series on collaboration in our website’s Articles section.


Roman 3 is an advising and solutions firm that specializes in inspiring progressive action, creating a culture of innovation, and assisting organizations in implementing transformative change. We help you build capacity, collaborate, be progressive, and grow to your full potential. For more information on our services and support reach out to us at info@roman3.ca


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