Being able to work with others is an important part of being an entrepreneur.
In fact, business leaders, academics and researchers who study entrepreneurship recognize collaboration and information sharing as important as more obvious skills such as opportunity recognition and determination.
Aspen Institute’s Aspen Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy Group included collaboration as one of the elements of the entrepreneurial mindset, that “critical mix of success-oriented attitudes of initiative, intelligent risk-taking, collaboration and opportunity recognition.”
In some ways, the essential role of collaboration goes against the ideas and stereotypes many people have of entrepreneurs -- the tinkering genius loner toiling in a suburban garage.
Yes, that does happen, but in reality, that part of the entrepreneurship arc is more closely aligned with persistence and drive than working alone.
Instead, entrepreneurs are not only good at sharing information and ideas, they are often eager for the opinions and reviews of others and include the best ideas of others into their own thinking. While it may be possible to unearth a brilliant idea by yourself, getting from inspiration to implementation as a team of one is a very unlikely path.
Successful entrepreneurs often cite knowing what they don’t do well as critical to their success. By definition, this is a requirement for being able to collaborate.
Even Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak, or vice versa. And Bill Gates had Paul Allen. And on and on.
Throughout years of working with aspiring as well as proven entrepreneurs, I’ve often heard the fears that come with sharing an idea. Nearly every creative thinker who values their idea has some hesitancy related to sharing which is frequently rooted in a fear of idea theft. Worrying about someone stealing a great idea is real fear. But it’s not often a real thing.
Those who really get past this concern understand that the entrepreneurial benefits of collaboration far outweigh whatever risk may be involved. In fact, more and more in the world of open platforms and the shared economy, great new products are coming together as a result of many collaborators. Perhaps the best example of this is Ben Kauffman, the founder of Quirky who has been playing with the notion of community-based product development since his senior year of high school when he's credited with developing MOPHIE.
Understanding and embracing the need to collaborate is so important that nearly all programs and courses that teach entrepreneurship include team-based project work. When I ran a global organization that taught the entrepreneurial mindset to middle and high school students, our curriculum started with team innovation challenges. By starting in small, competitive teams, students saw the rewards of collaboration in reaching a common goal.
As entrepreneurial skills develop and we gain experience, the strongest entrepreneurs also embrace collaboration as a way to seek out and include diverse views. That, by itself, has real value. According to a report by McKenzie, “Between 2008 and 2010, companies with more diverse top teams were also top financial performers. That’s probably no coincidence.”
No, it’s probably not a coincidence.
If you’re an entrepreneur -- and especially if you’re just starting out down that path -- collaboration isn’t just important, it is as important as the idea itself. Finding a way to make collaboration part of your planning -- and incorporating it into your mindset -- will make you a better entrepreneur.