Earlier this week I saw a pair of posts about product development: The first was about a new “collaboration lab” that opened in Iowa City. What’s remarkable isn’t necessarily the space, though I’m happy that folks in Iowa have a great place to invent. What strikes me is the word Collaboration painted on the wall. It’s better than co-working. Better even than pairing.
Collaboration is what makes a team great: multiple minds inventing something together that neither one could have come up with alone.
It got me thinking about a great post I had seen on Buzzfeed. A woman who enjoys sketching faces was compelled (against her will) to share her sketchbook with her 4 year old daughter. Her daughter thought the faces needed bodies, and enthusiastically offered her services to render them.
Mom didn’t really want that. Her faces were hers. But her daughter mentioned “sharing” and mom acquiesced.
This “product development” collaboration resulted in drawings that are magical and brilliant. The sketchbook became a China Miéville-like menagerie of bizarre and wonderful creatures. This is what’s so great about collaboration.
Tina Fey said it very well in her book Bossy Pants.
She was discussing improvisation at SCTV and she said that the players all knew that whatever they created together would always be more compelling (and funnier) than anything they created on their own. Improv is entirely an collaborative “product development” process, and it produces surprising results. Literally, surprising. The players never really know what’s going to come next, or what direction the work will take. Rather than relying on careful planning, improv demands attentiveness and faith in fellow collaborators.
Being precious with our ideas prevents us from opening up to all the possibilities. When we do brainstorming activities at Luxr, we often have people number their ideas as they generate them. Invariably we see that the best ideas are not the first ones; they’re not the obvious ones. Out of ten ideas, a few are ridiculous, 3 or 4 are ok, and a couple are really good. And those good ones aren’t numbers 1, 2, and 3. They’re maybe 2, 7, and 9. You need lots of ideas in order to find the best ones. You need the best thinking of every brain available to you. The point is, if you horde your ideas, you won’t make any progress.
Once more: If you horde your ideas, you won’t make progress.
Get them out there, as many as you can. It will improve the results of your product development efforts: Share the work with others. Improvise, evolve, and you too can have a menagerie of fantastic creatures.