Yesterday I had the pleasure of hearing innovation expert, Sarah Miller Caldicott, speak about the importance of collaboration for successful business endeavors. A great grandneice of Thomas Edison, she gave a lecture titled "Transforming Innovation Success in the Digital Era: 4 Lessons from Thomas Edison." I seek collaboration in everything I do, and when I first entered the fine art photography community, I was frustrated by the lack of interest in collaborating. It was and continues to be disappointing to learn that instead of subscribing to the "rising tides lift all ships" approach, many people prefer to work alone and consider themselves "competitors" rather than "collaborators". Luckily I have met some bright, shining stars along the way who are likeminded, and according to this lecture, we have chosen the most successful path!

Thomas Edison started over 200 companies (many of which to manufacture his inventions) and pioneered six industries. He was kind of a rockstar. And by "kind of", I mean "totally, completely, mind-blowingly". And in addition to his brilliance, a major component of his success (according to Sarah Miller Caldicott) was his use of collaboration.

Collaboration is not just teamwork - it is leveraging the power of each person to bring about each other's strengths and differences. Here are some take-home lessons on how to have an effective collaborative effort:

  • small teams of 2-8 typically work best
  • create experiences outside of a regular work environment so the group can have shared experiences and become colleagues (not just employees, committee members, etc.)
  • include people with diverse expertise
  • begin with questions (not solutions) so the team can collectively engage in discovery learning and be committed to the same outcomes
  • leaders need collegiality, inspiration, optimism, and expertise
  • reduce hierarchies and engage networks

To dig way deeper, check out Sarah Miller Caldicott's book on the subject, Midnight Lunch.

Now let's all achieve success together - what do you say?