Collaboration and Innovation

06 Sep 2005|Added Value

While collaboration is defined as people working together, I like to think of it more as the sharing of ideas, techniques, tools and even objects that result in something greater than the sum of parts. Two recent examples come to mind:

I ran across this website today as I was scanning the Cool Hunting newsletter. Alyce Santoro’s Sonic Fabric designs are beautiful, no doubt, but what I was more impressed by was the inspiration that lead to the innovation and how the concept of collaboration is woven throughout (pun intended).

Inspired by sailboat tell tails and Tibetan prayer flags (already a unique combination of ideas), Alyce takes cassette tape recorded with “sounds of (1/2) life” and weaves it with cotton. The fabric can then be played by running a tape head over it.

Beyond the collaboration of ideas, materials, use (clothing and musical instrument), the intent is collaborative as well. Sonic Fabric supports the culture that inspires it – a limited amount of product is produced by a craft cooperative supporting Tibetan women refugees in Nepal.

In another example, in a recent interview with Malcolm Gladwell on Mattson CEO Steve Gundrum’s podcast, Gladwell comments that he was most fascinated by the approach that Mattson takes to innovation. They look outside their own industry and combine innovation approaches from other industries to help them arrive at more unique results. This “collaboration” of ideas can produce something perhaps not possible otherwise.

In the end, the best collaboration comes from the willingness to explore the unknown and be surprised by the outcome. Like Alyce’s response to creating custom fabrics from a customer’s own tapes, “Though I don’t usually encourage this process, since it’s time consuming and expensive, nothing is outside the realm of possibility.”

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