Collaboration is indeed one of the cornerstones of productivity and ultimately, success. Sharing ideas and working together works until we all start to think alike.
It is true what they say: " There is nothing new under the sun". I believe this is true, well, in part. Most great ideas, even the ones we can all agree are fresh and new come from some other idea, service, product, failed invention, and so on. I am sure even Apple's Jobs or Thomas Edison both looked to past experiences or innovations for inspiration for their new ideas.
In business, it is always healthy, and often profitable to stand out from the pack. Even on your team if your goal is to transcend your current title/position, you will want to be unique... in a way that gets the attention of your bosses but does not disrupt the productivity of your overall group.
You will want to come up with new ideas. You must innovate and improve upon the methods and systems your firm uses. I mean, don't get me wrong, "teamwork makes the dreamwork", but being on a team does not mean you simply go with the flow. Being a team player doesn't mean that you simply hop on whatever is popular or trending for the day.
This is the type of behavior we see more and more in today's world of social media. Most trends are propelled by a slew of users simply supporting and strengthening the impact of ideas simply because they do not want to go against the grain.
Most people today buy into ideas simply because they do not want to incur the wrath/criticism of the rest of the crowd. Social science tells us that we are not in control of how we think as much as we might want to believe.
The research suggests that we are constantly reinforcing and influencing one another's views and opinions on a whole host of issues. This phenomenon is known as group polarization.
That being said, here are three simple tips to help you maintain your independence of thought in a collaborative work environment.
2. Embrace criticism
I know this is counterintuitive in today's environment but trust me when I tell you that, being able to listen to folks who do not often see things your way and trying to see why they see things their way will go a long way to help you form unique views.
Even your well-defined detractors have some comments that might help you be a better version of yourself. That is if you focus on the validity of their opinions of you and not their motives.
Forget all this psychobabble about "Haters" and all the hype on social media. Each critic, whether in business, life, or love is saying something that I think is worth exploring, even if for a moment to help you form well-rounded opinions.
3. Talk to end-users
In life and in business, most of us have this inexplicable tendency to mask our fears. We, as humans do this so as to not seem vulnerable or weak. My guess is this is a natural evolutionary characteristic we have kept since our ancestors roamed the plains of North Africa.
One of the most interesting ways we do this is by pretending we actually like talking to new people. I mean, let' be honest, no one actually enjoys going up to strangers and striking up a conversation. We certainly do not enjoy speaking in front of groups of people. In fact, public speaking ranks higher than death in most surveys.
I say this to say that, folks in your firm will typically sit around and look at charts and graphics, avoiding human contact, to try and solve a human problem. Brands typically fail to meet the needs of their customers simply because they never ask their customers what their needs are.
Break this cycle. Try to communicate with your end-users as often as you can especially in times of transition to help gain a unique perspective on what your customers want, will like, and will pay for.
4. Check the backstory
We have all seen Maleficent, for years as the evil fairy godmother character in Charles Perrault's fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. Well, until Angelina Jolie played the character in a fuller, more dynamic version on the big screen. In this film version of the old tale, Maleficent's back story was fully explored and reasons for her being what she was was told in its entirety. Without given away any spoilers, one could argue that a panoramic view of her character inspired some sort of empathy for her. Being able to explore the backstories of people, situations, problems, etc. Will help you form your own, well-informed unique views on just about anything.