Innovation results from Collaboration and Integration

The Nashville Chamber of Commerce recently traveled toPortland,OR. to study the community and take away ideas for future improvements to the city ofNashville. Over 100 business leaders met with civic, education, and government officials. On the last day I was asked by a colleague, “what do we take away from this trip?”

Portlandis a beautiful and unique city. It is well known for being environmentally friendly, a bicyclists’ mecca, a “wet” city subject to frequent rain, and advanced in community planning. There was much to learn. Yet many of the ideas were unique toPortland, not easily transferable to a different culture and geographic landscape with its own priorities. While it would be difficult to take many of the programs ofPortlandand apply them to theNashvillecommunity, there was one theme that cut across most of what we heard and is a huge lesson for communities and companies alike.

In so many communities different factions butt heads and organizations operate in silos arguing over budgets and turf. InPortlandwe saw example after example of community, government and corporate groups working together to reduce redundancies, leverage their strengths and integrate their services to be able to reach more people, accomplish better outcomes—with the same or fewer funds.

  • A new initiative with high schools providing a seamless entry into college for seniors, convincing students who might have dropped out to not only graduate on time, but develop the confidence to navigate higher education.
  • Multiple government and non-profit programs working together to solve the homeless problems, the majority of homeless now families and displaced workers. By pooling resources, and “staying in their own lane” regarding services, they are seeing more impact.
  • Business and government working together to find qualified candidates for job openings, functioning as placement offices and a source for hiring rather than just a resource for unemployment.

New solutions to old and current problems can be found by working with others who may have in the past been deemed competition. I once had a client that said they saved a month of time in the budgeting process by having a clear sense of priorities. It is an advantage born of good planning.Portland’s planning capability has enabled them to innovate more due to increased clarity putting everyone on the same page and allowing integration while encouraging collaboration.

What if we all competed less for the limited resources available to us and instead invested that time figuring out how to work together to accomplish more with less? That applies to departments inside a company arguing over budget dollars, non-profits competing for the same grants, and interest groups lobbying for their “fair share” of the budget. What if we only allocated resources based on outcomes not popularity or ability to persuade? How much more effective could we be? How much further can we grow? How much more can we accomplish?

InPortlandI saw the value of collaboration and integration in achieving results. It’s as simple as focusing on what we have in common and building on it. One of those important lessons we need to be reminded of from time to time. Thanks,Portland!

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