The collective intelligence created by diversity of opinion is the new competitive advantage.  Embracing diversity—and the debates that ensue—creates new ways of thinking, helps to identify potential future risk, and opens possible new doors to growth, market stretch, and business expansion.

Diverse thinking is essentially commercial collaboration; the move from ‘me’ to ‘we’.  Commercial collaboration challenges default thinking, creates endless opportunities, drives innovation, speed to market, employee engagement and has been shown to positively impact business results.

We are smarter together, move quicker together, and are able to find solutions for the future together, which, given the increasing complexity of the world we are all living and working within, is incredibly important.

In Deloitte’s 2014 report, ‘The Collaborative Economy’, it’s stated that Australia’s collaborative economy is worth AU$46 billion, and that collaboration could be worth an extra AU$9 billion a year by improving strategies

To echo the words of author Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you here won’t get you there.”

The business landscape has changed. The world in which we are operating is volatile and uncertain, our clients, staff and suppliers are more demanding than ever, we are contactable 24/,7 and we all have to operate on fewer resources than ever before. And yet we are being challenged to invent and create, to develop and explore, to be agile in our thinking, and to be innovative in our solution finding.

We cannot do this alone.  We need to work together.  We need to embrace diversity of thinking and difference of opinion. The barriers between genders, between generations, between cultures, between the inventors and the investors, between the change makers, the visionaries and those that make it happen—these all have to be broken down. We have to actively move way from the barriers of tradition (we’ve always done it like this) and embrace the complexities of diversity of thinking.

Networks of connected individuals, communities and businesses working together drive success. The power of this is inestimable as it connects people, businesses, skills, services, products and space to drive new opportunities and strategies for future-proofing. Who could have imagined, for example, that one day NASA would be using LEGO building blocks to educate astronauts in the International Space Station, and in turn providing LEGO with inspiration for their designs? Or that Coca-Cola would be working with ECO Plastics to develop sustainable and ethical bottles? Their agreement marks a turning point in the processing of industrial waste in the UK.

The real shift happens when we, as leaders, have the courage and confidence to take all we have learnt and look outward. It happens when we:

  • Move out of the closed-door boardrooms and corner offices and lower the personal barriers that prevent the presence of transparency and authenticity
  • Connect and share our thoughts, ideas and solutions to create better strategies
  • Actively engage with others, sharing our personal strengths and skills and equally open to help, advice and new connections
  • Enter conversations and meetings with a mindset of curiosity, innovation and invention.

The most innovative businesses and organisations are starting to develop a system of active collaboration that goes beyond the open innovation.  They have well and truly entered into the economy of ‘we’, valuing the combination of the skills and thinking of businesses from diverse industries and appreciating the value and opportunity that differences create.

What got us here is not going to ensure our future in a world that is demanding more things quicker, increased functionality and at a better price.

The future lies in the hands of each of us coming together, embracing diversity of thinking, challenging our default and working together.