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Jun 30, 2017

Collaboration: Strength In A Diverse Workplace

Sponsored Content provided by Heather McWhorter - Interim Director, UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

This Insights article was contributed by Alex Fisher of Elite Innovations, LLC.

Collaboration is the best way to work. It’s [the] only way to work really. Everyone’s there because they have a set of skills to offer across the board. – Antony Starr, actor

 
The importance of interaction and collaboration cannot be ignored in the workplace, especially when working in a small startup environment.
 
Collaboration within interdisciplinary teams is becoming more and more important today in companies that are both expected to offer more variety in their services and include creative elements in presenting their business for customers and potential clients. The impact of collaboration has been proven to increase productivity and improve our human chemistry. It is a fact that we are better working together than we are working on our own.
 
Our individual strengths shine when we work with others who complement our strengths or our shortcomings. Sometimes our differences create what Nissan executive designer Jerry Hirsch calls “creative abrasion.” He encourages people to use the energy that comes from working with people who are different into something positive. He suggests leveraging the differences and work to identify what can be complementary about them.
 
The strength of separate individuals is far outweighed by the strength of a team. Take football, for example. While both the defense and the offense have separate goals during their time on the field, the collaboration and common goal of both must complement each other for the ultimate objective of stopping the other team from scoring, putting points on the board, and winning the game.
 
While our conference rooms may not be as public as an NFL or Big Ten college football game, the importance of bringing unique skills to the table for the common goal of success plays out much in the same way. Collaborations may include moments of pulling out your hair, slamming a clipboard to the ground, or looking at a teammate in disbelief after a “play,” but the importance and results of collaborating most often end in positive, creative outcomes for a company and their clients.
 
While there is no denying the challenges that face us when working with those who think and operate differently than ourselves, the creative abrasion and gained assets of a variety of viewpoints culminating in the completion of a successful project offsets any denial that working together is better than working alone.

In today’s business culture, companies are trying to be more things for their customers, and those customers are seeking out companies that cut out the middle man. The results of these customer demands are more intercompany collaboration and interdisciplinary teams within the workplace. And as companies utilize the advancement in internet and technology, they expand not only within different disciplines but also to different places.
 
This is more apparent than ever in a business like Elite Innovations, where we never quite know who - or what idea - will walk through the door. Being a product development firm, we discovered early on that the clients we would serve and teams we would need to build within the company would be diverse and ever-changing.
Working together in our interdisciplinary teams, we have found strength in each other’s differences and unique skill sets each of us possesses and exemplifies in our everyday operations. Did I ever believe, as an entertainment professional, I would work with programmers, engineers and industrial designers? Probably not, but in seeing that our differences complement each other at every turn - and that creative abrasion resulting in even more creative alternatives and solutions - I now know the true value in collaboration.
 
It takes straightforward thinkers and creative thinkers to gain insight from each other and for extroverts to express and present what introverts cannot naturally express. We are all wonderfully diverse and different in our concentrations.
 
Approaching business as an opportunity for collaboration strengthens companies and individual productivity, resulting in more shared value for the whole ecosystem.
 
Elite Innovations is a one-stop shop for product development - including design, engineering, prototyping and manufacturing - that helps clients take ideas from concepts to reality.

Diane Durance, MPA, is director of UNC Wilmington's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). The CIE is a resource for the start-up and early-stage business community to help diversify the local economy with innovative solutions. For more information, visit www.uncw.edu/cie.
 

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