Innovation Never Happens in a Void – Valuing Collaboration

Collaboration fosters innovation. Innovation drives a Future Proof® organization that can generate continuous value. Leaders need to actively support an environment for collaboration.

Leaders who know the value of true innovation are the ones who are prospering in the world of rapidly expanding and competitive global markets. They are transforming industries and economies by creating, disrupting, and expanding on existing paradigms.


A few years ago, a client asked us to help them with their innovation investment portfolio. They were considering where successful innovation would emerge in the future and how they should position themselves to invest early. We examined a variety of macroeconomic factors, as well as information about culture, society, technology, and politics. That process generated three drivers for future innovation. Of them, the most is important is Humannectivity: people and the connections we make – fundamentally, it is how we engage. 

Today, the concept provides a way to assess the possibility and worth inherent in the act of collaboration. It helps us to define human-to-human (H2H) connection for the purpose of accomplishing a shared objective. These kinds of interactions are not defined or bound by conventional organizational chart structures. In fact, success comes from allowing leadership to exist anywhere in the organization that disseminates useful knowledge. And it comes from embracing diversity.

The more personal connections you can create, the higher the likelihood of collaboration that spans traditional boundaries and the more likely it is that innovation will occur and succeed. Building an organization of smart, like-minded people is not a competitive advantage. Building one that encourages imagination, communication and inclusiveness is. 

Collaboration is Not Coordination

Let’s be clear. Collaboration is more than a mindset and environment dedicated to working together. It is also the active engagement of ideas and the ability to challenge – and be challenged – across boundaries of geography, age, titles, and structure. It does not demand ownership, but it does require that the participants share a sense of direction and purpose.

Leaders must nurture an environment that is shaped by a strong culture of collaboration, that embraces diversity, and that allows employees to engage with each other. It may not be enough to encourage collaboration. What an organization rewards is most often what ends up driving behavior. Setting goals and incentivizing the collaboration that drives toward shared purpose and outcomes actually may be more appropriate in our current climate. (When was the last time you rewarded collaboration?)

Without innovation, it is impossible for organizations to become Future Proof®. And without an environment of open collaboration, innovation withers. While it’s vital for today’s leaders to remain attuned to all the factors driving strategy and supporting agility, you must acknowledge that your people have a hand in every one of them. Remembering the role that collaboration plays in developing strategy, employing processes and technology, or building productive relationships will help to shape an environment where it can thrive and advance the organization over the long term.

Organizations focused on successful innovation will see increased market value. But the true value is in the shifts in human dynamics that will carry the organizational forward. This will be seen as a stalwart and shared commitment to the objectives and culture of the organization displayed in behaviors and attitudes that continually fosters innovation. Achieving this is the true success, and it sets the foundation for a Future Proof® organization.  

It is time for leaders to build space for a collaborative approach to innovation.


About the Authors

Hans Davies

Hans Davies has been at Toffler Associates since 2007 and is a Director. His focus is helping organizations design imaginative futures that explore the nexus of humans and technology and their impact on security and protection. His specialties include security and resilience in the converging cyber and physical environments.  Before TA, he was an Analyst at SAIC supporting the Department of Defense Office of Treaty Compliance, focusing on reducing the danger and impact of Small Arms and Light Weapons, especially Landmines, across the globe. He earned a BA in History from Williams College and an MA in International Relations from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

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