What sets a business apart? What kinds of resources do you need to really succeed? Money? Diligent personnel? Dedication? Josh Linkner, five-time entrepreneur, venture capitalist, professor, and New York Times best-selling author of "Disciplined Dreaming -- A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity" says it's none of these.
"Unfortunately," Linkner says, "most companies fail to unleash their most valuable resources: human creativity, imagination, and original thinking. They lack a systematic approach to building a culture of innovation, and then wonder why they keep getting beaten to the punch."
But how do you access that kind of raw creative thinking? Though we're highly digitally connected, it can be easy to find yourself locked into a community of people whose experiences are similar to yours and whose ideas just don't look all that original. Where can you find diversity, innovation, and an exchange of creative ideas? One answer is to join an innovation community.
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In its most basic form, an innovation community involves a group of diverse minds coming together to share ideas, struggles, and resources in the spirit of collaboration. Holding to the belief that a whole is greater than the sum of its parts, members of an innovation community seek to lift each other up, reaching new levels of accomplishment and inspiring new ideas that would not have been achievable by a single entity on its own.
While some organizations seek to build an innovation community through their own internal employees, and others solicit feedback from their customers, a rising trend shows companies collaborating across industries to meet new goals. Venture Café Global, for example, hosts recurring events in six major cities across the world for innovators to learn, collaborate, and network for the benefit of all parties involved.
So, what can an innovation community do for your business? The possibilities cover more ground than you might expect:
1. It provides new perspectives.
Everybody knows what somebody wants, but nobody knows what everybody wants. The more differences your team brings to the table, the more likely you are to create an idea that meets the needs of a larger group of people.
This is one of the greatest strengths of an innovation community: It brings together a wide variety of people with a range of backgrounds, perspectives, and expertise into a space designed for innovation. This is a combination that's bound to spark fantastic ideas.
2. It improves employee engagement.
The innovation world is moving too fast to make maintaining the status quo an option. To do so risks losing the engagement of employees who are looking for new opportunities and expanded horizons.
"Corporations are finding less and less ROI in simply buying beer and hanging out," says Travis Sheridan, Venture Café Global's president. "Physically embedding a small team off the corporate campus and closer to the innovation community can help change the culture and mindset. Sharing thought leadership and participating in innovation-related programming leads to serendipitous collisions with a new batch of creative thinkers and doers."
Your most creative people need a community of other creative people in order to thrive. An innovation community creates this space.
3. It increases your resources.
Finding quality employees is hard. In fact, a 2015 survey by Manpower Group found that 32 percent of American companies have difficulty filling positions. The shifting landscape of the global employment market has created a higher need for creative, innovative workers with fairly specialized skill sets, and no single company can employ everyone with skills they will need. Engaging in creative collaboration provides a way to fill these gaps and offers your company access to tools you might otherwise lack.
Innovation is more important in business today than it ever has been before, but it just doesn't happen in isolation. Seeking out communities of innovation and joining them -- or sending your most creative employees to engage with them -- will breathe more life into your business and open creative doors you've probably never imagined.