by Joy Finnegan, Editor-in-Chief, Aviation Maintenance Magazine

Collaboration. What does it truly mean? It’s defined as working jointly with others especially in an intellectual endeavor. How is your company encouraging collaboration among its employees? It’s a crucial point to consider when working to achieve that competitive edge that is so needed in today’s market place.

It’s possible to work as a solo act and achieve great things, but most great advances and inventions are the result of a collaborative process. An idea is hatched, but perhaps falls flat at first attempt to implement. Next, someone else who watched the process fail the first time, says, “how about we try this”…and someone else says, “how about we also do this additional thing”…and the next thing you know, with input from multiple sources, something amazing happens.

This is true whether we are talking about inventions of things and products or whether we are talking about business processes and procedures. I’m sure you have heard the old saying “standing on the shoulders of giants” in reference to a person’s success. And often, when success is achieved, it is through the efforts of many and the collaboration of a team.

The car, the light bulb and yes, even the airplane were collaborations. Many people worked on these inventions at once in different areas and even shared ideas. If you consider aircraft, it started with DaVinci and moved to Liliental. A small improvement on what ultimately was a failure to achieve the desired result was then incorporated in the next iterations by the next inventor (and the next and the next) until—voila! Orville and Wilbur’s tweaks created a craft that stayed aloft for those amazing 12 seconds. It should also be noted that the Wright Flyer wouldn’t have succeeded without the input (collaboration) of famed first mechanic, Charles Taylor, who designed and built the aluminum, water-cooled engine based in part on drawings done by the Wright Brothers.

More recently, we have the creative and brilliant mind of the late Steve Jobs to thank for the strong understanding and encouragement of tech companies to build collaborative work environments. Jobs believed spontaneous, random encounters often lead to the most interesting developments. In the Walter Isaacson biography of Jobs, the president of Pixar, which was owned by Apple and a personal project of Jobs said, “Steve had this firm belief that the right kind of building can do great things for culture.” Known for his obsessive ways, he was no different when helping design both the Pixar headquarters, and later, the new Apple complex in Cupertino, Calif.

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