Other parts of this series:
As part of the team that developed the Accenture Virtual Experience Solution (AVEnueS), Val Armbrust and I got a hands-on education in what it takes to develop a new idea. We’re sharing 10 innovation lessons through this blog series. In this post, I’m focusing on a critical principle: “Keep everything in the sunshine.”
This lesson is about how teams work together – especially how they communicate – as they pursue innovation. Words like “collaboration” and “transparency” are so over-used that you could argue they have become meaningless. But our team took those words to heart. We made a commitment to work differently, and we held ourselves to that commitment throughout the development process.
We’ve all been on teams where everything isn’t in the sunshine. Sometimes a call or meeting ends, and individuals start reaching out to exchange thoughts and ideas that should have been shared during the meeting. Other times, everyone is told their contributions are valued, but only one or two team members are really calling the shots. It can feel very defeating. It wastes a lot of time. And it doesn’t inspire the kind of thinking you need to spark and iterate a game-changing idea.
When you keep everything in the sunshine, team members aren’t having sideline conversations, and everyone is sharing input with everyone else. No one is withholding documents or other information from team members. And the team isn’t just giving lip service to collaboration. Everyone feels empowered to speak up – not only with ideas and solutions, but also when they’re feeling worried or frustrated about how the project is going.
The Accenture creative, development and industry teams that came together to create AVEnueS were working together for the first time. We had no template for what we were creating or for how we would be collaborating day to day. That meant we had to be willing to trust – and to be vulnerable. Whether a team has a long track record or is coming together for the first time, trust and vulnerability are essential to innovation. Remember that comfort yields more of the same; innovation requires breaking new ground both in what and how you’re creating. In short, you have to get comfortable with the discomfort of vulnerability.
That doesn’t mean everyone has to agree all the time, or that people won’t make mistakes along the way. We had to work through some “storm clouds” in our AVEnueS collaboration, but we always returned quickly to the “sunshine.” That way of working – with openness and energy – is what nurtures everyone’s best thinking. It aligns everyone’s efforts. And it enables your team to deliver something truly groundbreaking.