Collaboration ≠ Innovation

The belief that ‘the best ideas ideas arrive via open candour and collaboration’ - while attractive in theory - may be dismantled with the simplest of everyday examples:

Image credit: Nik Macmillan - Unsplash

Scenario #1:

You are at home alone, it’s time for dinner.

“What do I want for dinner”? you ask yourself. A quick survey of the kitchen, balanced against your appetite.

“I want toast”…

Decision made: simple, quick, cheap, effective.

You cook and eat your toast (choose your spreads) and are satisfied.

Scenario #2:

You are at home with your partner, it’s time for dinner.

You ask: “Babe… so what do we feel like for dinner”?

By simply adding one person to the mix, the entire scope of the problem shifts. Our cognitive faculties shift from critical problem solving to social intelligence.

For some reason we cannot each have individual meals at different times, we must eat the same thing and at the same time.

A negotiation ensues.

Add a third person. Add kids. Add a vegetarian.

These individuals each have their own opinions - their own expertise, as it were - and equally want to be heard, since open candour is encouraged.

“I want lobster”.

“I don’t eat fish”.

“I’m starving, I skipped lunch”

“I don’t want to cook”.

Is the best and brightest result achieved?

Is the most incredible meal going to be created?


More likely a compromise will be reached. There may be a democratic vote; a collective consensus.

At some point there will be an executive decision.

Someone is likely to be disappointed.

Despite the result, what's important to note is that the problem we wanted to solve - ‘I need to eat’ - shifts to - ‘how can we reach a compromise’?

Two very different frameworks.

Two very different outcomes.

When choosing to collaborate, there can be some valuable insight to be gained, though we should be wary of conflating achieving a result with this is the best possible result.

Toast could have satisfied everyone.

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Christopher. S. Sellers is an Expert on Creativity + Innovation

Founder + Director of Black Bulb Creative