We were recently inspired by a talk we heard Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh give at an event at Procter & Gamble. He talked about, among lots of other things, the transformation he is passionately driving in Las Vegas, where he, and others, are aiming to create a community of collisions between people of all walks of life to drive innovation. (See a great synopsis of the work they’ve been doing here.)
We’ve heard a similar concept before, from our friend Todd Henry, who talks about “accidents” in his first book “Accidental Creative.”
And, we’ve experienced it in our own careers. In fact, we share office space with a few other companies in an effort to create connections that inspire each of us to innovate our business models, products & services and our growing company cultures.
Hsieh quotes research that claims that, as the size of a city doubles, innovation and productivity per resident increases 15%, but the opposite is true for companies, where, growth seems to drive a decline in innovation and productivity. Given that, as he says, most innovation comes from outside a given industry or category, finding a way to create “collisions” or interaction between individuals from diverse backgrounds can lead to innovation and productivity.
So, for corporations, whose goal is healthy growth, how can they avoid the decline in innovation and productivity by increasing the right kinds of collisions?
Here are a few thought starters to consider that we’ve gleened from thought leaders like Hsieh and Henry, and our own experience:
1. Create new contexts by getting out from behind your desk. Whether you sit in an open office environment or in a private office, collisions can’t happen if you’re sitting still. Spend a day a week working somewhere else — a coffee shop, cafe, on another floor of your building. Purposely look up and make eye contact and conversation with at least one new person. Find out what s/he is working on and ask about his or her areas of expertise and experience. A local company we collide with on a regular basis is Ephipheo. Three days a week, they host lunch in their open office environment, and invite companies in the building to join for free lunch and an opportunity to learn about each other.
2. Connect by looking for ways to learn from each other. One hallmark of innovative communities, cultures and companies is the idea of co-learning. Learning together and from each other. This only happens when we willingly share knowledge and experience with each other. Be willing to share yours in blogs or white papers, or even better, over coffee. Recently, we were invited to P&G’s “Signal” event — a gathering of thought leaders from several companies that P&G works with, sharing learning and best practices around marketing, purposely designed with opportunities to connect over breaks and meals and learn from each other.
3. Build community around shared purpose. Every healthy, innovative ecosystem is driven by individuals purposely pursuing ideas they are passionate about. This creates a common ground for collisions to make meaning. Once the connection and a sense of community is established, the opportunities for innovation and new ideas are exponential. In the case of Hsieh, one common purpose is the revitalization of old downtown Las Vegas. Take a look at this video that captures the “Life is Beautiful” event that epitomizes the spirit, and the tangible impact of the movement and community building that is happening there.
Photo licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 via Flickr user: Robert Scoble
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