Are you more effective working alone or around others?

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People working together for business

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” -Henry Ford, Ford Motor Company Founder
Innovation is a social process, Yes, we can come up with ideas in isolation, but working with others helps us make them a reality. Social interaction spurs the thinking process, making us aware of problems and potentials that we may not have noticed before. Our ideas come to life as we critique and improve upon each other’s plans, but without feedback, we get stuck in a rut. We lose sight of the big picture as we spin our wheels, unable to take our ideas to the next level.

Unfortunately, fear often keeps us from sharing our ideas. What are we so worried about? Perhaps we think someone will take our ideas and run faster with them than we can. Maybe we fear the inevitable criticism that comes with opening our ideas to the world. Can we handle people critiquing our “babies?” At first it might be hard, but unless we share our ideas and risk feedback, it’s unlikely that they will ever become a reality.

So, how should we start sharing our ideas? Many turn to online forums, but internet connections can never beat face-to-face conversations and close physical proximity. When we work together in the same space, challenging ideas flow and bounce around at an accelerating pace, creating a culture of innovation.  Having lunch or coffee with other innovative people allows us to spark new ideas and refine old ones, and spending a day working together enables even more to be done.

Don't try to go it alone. We all have this image of a solitary Thomas Edison toiling away in his workshop, but what we should be visualising is the little-known group of 50+ innovators that came to work with him from all over the globe. Together, they created a culture of innovation that allowed them to literally shed light on the world. Finding other people who are innovative thinkers and getting together with them on a regular basis allows us to create an energy and buzz that can never be rivaled.

Here in West Michigan, there are several groups trying to create such an innovative culture. Hope College has a phenomenal entrepreneurial program. Grand Rapids’ Startgarden helps  startups get off their feet, providing them with funding and opening their ideas to public critique. Co-working spaces like Warehaüs in Holland host great networking events and make room for the social development of ideas every day of the week. So put yourself out there! Connect with the sort of people who bring these organizations to life. Find the ones who challenge your way of thinking the most, and work with them every day if you can. As James Cash Penney (the man who had the idea for a little thing called the department store) once said, “growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.”
In what setting are you most effective? For more information about how to enhance your business, visit my page Who & Why or send me an email at


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