A Problem Shared is a Problem Halved: Why Your Most Valuable Innovation Resource is Your Network

Filed Under Mind Mapping


October 31, 2013

We’re all familiar with the feeling of panic when the pressure is on to come up with the next big idea — that sensation of going ’round and ’round in circles, knowing that you’re close to something, but you just can’t quite see it.

It’s even worse when you’re working alone.

Innovation from Unlikely Places

According to research by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 61% of CEOs worldwide say that innovation is a priority for their business, showing they place a high premium on those able to regularly pioneer new ideas and approaches. However, many companies still operate under the assumption that it’s only the more senior members of staff, or niche experts in a certain team or with a particular skill, that produce the best ideas. This leaves R&D teams to develop that revolutionary new product that everyone wants on their Christmas list, or the senior marketing team to come up with a creative campaign that will blow the competition out of the water. Even Apple relied on Steve Jobs to come up with one of their most successful innovations to date, the iPod. Whilst these people have probably spent years honing their professional techniques, it’s not unusual for even the best employees to hit a mental block or start churning out variations on the same idea. What’s more, you may be missing out on great ideas from people who aren’t in the core team.

It’s at times like these when the old adage “two heads are better than one” springs to mind. Advertising agencies have been heeding this advice for years, with their creative teams working in pairs — often for the entirety of their careers. It’s a bit like our merger with innovation leader Spigit. Our two teams collaborating together will naturally generate more creativity and innovation than we did individually. And when you think about the many new brains we have access to in our new organisation, anything is possible!

Bigger Brainpower = Better Business

As we wrote about last month, the more people you have contributing, the more power you’ll have to generate ideas. The people you work with: colleagues, clients, suppliers and customers are your most valuable resource.  You might have some wonderful innovators hidden away in your organisation that you’ve not yet tapped in to. For all you know, Charlie in the post room might have the spark which ignites the company’s best money-making innovation, but you’ll never know unless you ask.

There can also be very serious downsides to becoming too insular and self-reliant as a team. The psychological phenomenon of Groupthink — whereby a desire to minimise conflict and retain harmony means that a group of people go along with an idea, rather than question it appropriately — sums this up nicely. Teams of people who work together on a regular basis are particularly prone to this problem, and the results can be disastrous. A couple of high-profile examples include: the collapse of Swissair, which turned from being the world’s most financially stable airline to insolvent because its leaders thought it was invulnerable; and the US Army, who decided to ignore warnings about a potential attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 because they thought Japan would never start an all-out war against the US.

Sharing a business problem amongst all employees, rather than just the usual tried-and-tested people, should help mediate this. Consultancy firms such as Accenture, PWC, and KPMG have built successful businesses on this premise. It might also mean that you find a new or unusual resolution on a common problem, leading to a creative and innovative idea which could change the way your business works. Novant Health used Spigit’s crowdsourcing platform to ask three thousand of their 3 million-strong nursing community what they felt could be done to improve patient care, rather than relying on their senior management. As such, I’d urge everyone to think about who they could turn to for that second, third opinion, or team up with for a good-old brainstorming session. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved.