The Role of Collaboration in Fostering Innovation
As an innovator or entrepreneur beginning your journey, you’re often told that your path will be lonely and difficult or that any connections you do make will be based on the position you hold or the prestige of the company you work at. However, Venture Café Warsaw is turning this narrative around by making the entrepreneurs’ journey one filled with two-way collaboration and authentic connections.
For Founding Executive Director Aureliusz Górski, an innovation-ecosystem facilitator, collaboration is how innovators and entrepreneurs can move from discussing a problem to taking action and solving it. He believes that in order to be a better collaborator, you must know your strengths and be aware of the situations in which you can truly shine and those in which you need to ask for help.
Venture Café Warsaw believes that innovation cannot happen behind closed doors. They encourage innovators to be unafraid when it comes to presenting their ideas at events and receiving feedback and guidance from other ecosystem players. In doing so, says Aureliusz, “we guarantee that you’ll leave feeling more inspired and connected.”
Programs and Global Partnerships Director Ewa Geresz, who is responsible for several programs aimed at strengthening the innovation environment in Poland and connecting it globally, agrees with Aureliusz that innovators must not isolate themselves. “Years ago,” she says, “innovation was done in isolation.” However, at the rate at which the world is changing, if you isolate yourself and shy away from collaboration, the world will leave you behind. “But when people of different backgrounds and from different industries gather together, they can look at issues from different, and from multiple, perspectives. That is when innovation can happen.”
And that’s why, she says, it is crucial for entrepreneurs to attend spaces and programs that facilitate conversations and collaborations with other innovators.
As an example that showcases how innovators can achieve success by attending spaces and events that foster collaboration, Ewa points to ForLogistic, a Polish company that offers express, short-term rental in the commercial real estate sector. “The founders met and came up with the idea behind ForLogistic during our virtual hackathon #IdeaHack,” she says. “They then attended our Thursday gatherings and were able to meet other key members of their current team as well as their investors.” Being open to sharing their ideas and talents with other innovators, and not being afraid to put themselves out there, allowed the founders of ForLogistic to create the first storage-industry platform in Poland and Europe based on the principle of the sharing economy (co-warehousing.)
Innovation happens when you share your story and collaborate with people of different backgrounds.
“The spirit of collaboration,” says Ewa, “is all about an exchange.” In order to be better collaborators, you should be open to both receiving and giving help when it comes to innovation, and you must cultivate trust in your ecosystem. “Oftentimes, entrepreneurs are afraid of sharing their ideas and resources and of helping other innovators, because of negative experiences in the past.” However, she explains, if there is a lack of social trust, and a belief that other innovators in your industry will not give back in the form of ideas, talent or resources, the collaboration will never be effective.
Of course, learning to trust others in your industry is sometimes easier said than done. One great strategy is to approach people and situations with an open mind and zero assumptions. “Every person that you meet,” says Ewa, “should be looked at as a blank slate. You need to approach people with the intention to get to know them authentically and create friendships that will be beneficial to both sides.” Once genuine friendships are established between entrepreneurs, the process of collaboration flows much more easily and naturally, and it is now based on a foundation of trust.
Most important tips for startups:
Attend the Thursday Gatherings.
These weekly gatherings are the core of the Innovation Campus and are always attended by incredible innovators of vastly different backgrounds. Attending these gatherings and collaborating with those you meet is the best way to get the most out of Venture Café Warsaw.
Keep an open mind.
Keeping an open mind and allowing oneself to communicate with people of different backgrounds is one of the most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur. New ideas can only be born out of communication with those that are different from you.
Focus on making real relationships.
Good networking is not about talking to as many people as you possibly can during an event. Instead, focus on cultivating real relationships that will last.