For innovation, there is definitely an 'i' in 'team'

Alumni of Silicon Valley darling Facebook are regrouping in various ways to start new companies. It's a prime example of how collaboration fosters innovation.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

"There's no 'I' in 'team,' " the old saying goes.

That's true literally and figuratively, where "i" stands for "individual."

But there's an awful lot of another "i" -- innovation -- in team-based problem-solving.

A lovely report in the Los Angeles Times this morning demonstrates the value of social interaction as it pertains to innovation, using alumni of Silicon Valley darling Facebook as its prime examples. In it, the movers-and-shakers that first built the social network are reconfiguring in different ways, like code-wielding enzymes, to develop newer technologies that could be the next big Internet thing.

Jessica Guynn reports:

"Very few people get to change the world with their friends. Now we are setting out to do it again," said Kevin Colleran, 31, Facebook's first ad sales guy, who's now an investor handing out money and advice.

While some of the various projects underway by these well-off technologists will invariably fail, what's more interesting is the environment in which this is all taking place. We've always known that Silicon Valley is all about who you know and collaborate with -- but here, innovation isn't quite as serendipitous when collaboration is fundamental.

Guynn, again:

What's clear is that it pays to have friends like these in Silicon Valley, where it's all about whom you know and whom you work with.

Innovation, researchers have found, is an inherently social act, owing as much to these tightknit networks as the garage tinkering of individual entrepreneurs.

"The basic unit of innovation in Silicon Valley is the team," Silicon Valley futurist Paul Saffo said. "Innovation is an irrational act, and the only way to get through that irrationality is to surround yourself with other people as crazy and obsessed with changing the world as you are."

Like Andy Warhol's Factory in New York and Germany's Bauhaus, putting a diverse group of people with a common goal in physical proximity to each other almost certainly results in innovation. It is the very thing that successful cities, and companies, rely upon to survive.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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