Are you missing an opportunity to innovate?

Almost a decade ago, I remember seeing a tweet that struck me as symptomatic of a wider problem. (Yes, I was tweeting 9 years ago…) This tweet was commenting on all of the networking meet-ups happening in a single week and while I can’t remember the exact words, it said something along the lines of, “While all of my competitors were busy having free bagels before work, attending a lunch presentation during work and talking to each other at drinks after work… I was busy beating them by working with my head down in the office.”

A well-intended message by a fairly senior professional at the time… but one that I’ll humbly suggest is misguided. Particularly when you work in an industry like technology that is constantly changing and requires constant learning to keep up.

Compare and contrast that to a message I heard last evening at a networking event. A manager of support desk that advises on multiple large-scale clouds was asked how she keeps her support staff up to speed on all of the evolving services. Her response was, what I’ll argue is the better approach compared to that long-ago tweet. She explained her team is expected to know every service they support, document that knowledge to share with each other, and then network and share knowledge actively with each other to build upon individual knowledge.

Too much changes too fast in the technology sector for any one individual to be able to know, test, read and do it all yourself. Instead, we have an incredible tool in each other that allows each person to achieve, think, do and know exponentially more through the act of sharing, challenging and discussing with each other. That comes from getting away from your desk, out of your office’s four walls and into the conversations that happen with the rest of the industry. That includes your customers, competitors, colleagues, leaders and individuals at every level of a company.

Image Credit: wocintechchat.com, #WOCinTech Chat

Technology has shrunk the perceived size of the world we live and work in. It’s an easily leveraged opportunity for innovation! Connect in active online communities and share ideas across oceans and state lines. I’ve found product management Slack groups (Mind the Product, Women in Product), industry Twitter chats (#CloudChat), multiple Facebook communities (TechLadies, Women in Product) and local meet-ups that have inspired new solutions to old problems, provided impressive feedback to work and advice to new ideas and helped develop research and innovation data that was critical in shaping future direction.

Recently I was trying to compile data for a survey of individuals in product management. I started with a survey request to the Slack and Facebook groups I’m a member of and within 48 hours I had nearly 100 qualified responses and had started a conversation within the groups on share the data.

You don’t have to (and likely shouldn’t) be at every meet-up every day, but challenge yourself to attend meet-ups for topics adjacent to your area of expertise. Join active communities and contribute feedback, discussion, analysis and ideas to move the industry forward. Your own innovation and ideas will exponentially increase as you get new insights, inputs and information you can apply to solve problems.

You never know where the next source of innovation can be found… but you can be almost certain it’s not lurking under your chair at your desk, isolated from challenging and impactful community discourse.

What are the most active groups you participate in to spark and share ideas?
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