It’s tempting to believe that many of our great minds came to their ideas independently. Our Isaac Newtons, Adam Smiths, and Nikola Teslas were all geniuses no doubt, but their works were the collaboration and continuation of many people’s knowledge before them.
It was books and urbanization that allowed them the good fortune of dedicating their lives to the pursuit of knowledge and allowed them to, seemingly overnight, change the world.
This pattern for cultivating ideas shows up everywhere. We can find this same process in biology where ecosystems thrive in richly diverse populations, while ecosystems where species diversity is lower are more prone to extinction. Everywhere we look, we see the same idea: diversity drives innovation. It even appears in business, but some seem to be running in the opposite direction, away from communicating and collaborating with one another.
Within IT, we often balk at the idea of collaboration. Instead, we build our own information silos, safeguarding knowledge while thinking we are protecting ourselves. It’s unfortunate that in a field where technological progress is so vital to our success, we’ve become modern hunter-gatherers, protecting our own tribe from one another.
We should model our teams and organizations after this same pattern and create an idea driven culture. Instead of working on projects alone in our cubicles, why not take the entire team for coffee or beers after work. Mix things up and socialize. Help foster ideas from everyone. Collaborate and communicate with your teams and within your organization. Sir Isaac Newton’s own father after all was a farmer who couldn’t even write his own name. If the entire world could change in one generation in the 17th century, what are we capable of today?
Creating an work environment and building relationships with your team goes a long way to foster the honesty necessary to build an idea driven culture. In my experience, the biggest barrier to information sharing--especially ideas--is fear of ridicule. Breaking down those fears and building an environment where everyone feels comfortable (and encouraged) to share their ideas--good and bad--with the team is a fantastic step.