I recently watched an amazing TED talk with British author Matt Ridley. The title of his talk was When Ideas Have Sex. Cheeky little title, but aptly named. He discussed how the sharing of ideas has increased technology at a staggering rate and how it has improved our standard of living. As I watched and listened, I couldn’t help but see the parallels for leadership collaboration.
A point made in his talk, Matt asks how we became the only species to become more prosperous as it becomes more populous. The quick answer is through exchange of skills and ideas. In case you haven’t noticed, there has been a surge in leadership development over the past 20 years. Interestingly enough, that is about the same length of time that the internet has been around. The ability to exchange ideas and work together, collaboration, has fueled leadership development at an unprecedented rate.
This increase in collaboration allows leadership to draw upon the collective insight of the group, whatever that group may be. The result of this is much more exponential than simple reciprocity. This exchange alters the standards of how leadership is done. Instead of one person trying to be all things leadership, they are permitted (actually encouraged) to focus on their strengths. Collaboration allows individuals to grow their strengths and creates momentum for more specialization which creates more momentum for more collaboration.
As a society, we work for each other by working with each other. One person may work in a restaurant which feeds a person who works for the local steel mill. That steel mill creates a product for the car manufacturer that built the car that the restaurant worker drives to work. This can be teased out in a million different directions.
Who is the audience for leadership? The answer to that is our “customer” base as leaders. We are working for them by working with them. When we choose not to collaborate, we are diminishing our service to those we are meant to serve. Working for each other by working with each other actually raises our standard of living. When people are cut off from collaboration, progress doesn’t just slow down. It actually begins to atrophy.
Intelligence is great, but when left to be an island it serves no purpose but to big note one’s self. Sharing ideas and collaborating is much more important than the IQ of one individual. With collaboration, we are able to collectively accomplish more as a group than the sum of our individual capabilities.
We all have ideas and can bring something to the table. Time in the game isn’t what counts. Skin in the game is what counts. Find some like-minded individuals and be comfortable in what you bring to the table. It doesn’t have to be like what others bring to the table. If everyone has the same to offer, what good is collaboration? Don’t wait for a perfect opportunity to do something…the perfect opportunity doesn’t exist. You add excellence to the opportunity you have. That is what makes it a perfect opportunity.