Without collaboration, innovation stalls


How we can bring Edison’s world-changing collaboration process into the digital age.

When we call Thomas Edison to mind, our first thought is of a brilliant inventor and innovator whose creations transformed modern life. We often think of him toiling away in a laboratory all by himself, long into the wee hours of the morning.

And yet, we rarely consider the role that collaboration played in Edison’s world-changing success. Tangled in the lore of the lone American inventor, our mind’s eye conjures Edison’s spray of white hair, his signature bow tie, and we quickly ascribe his 1,093 US patents to innate genius.

Tempting as it is to sustain this image of Edison, it is inaccurate. In an age when we speak of Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs in the same breath, it’s important to refresh our understanding of the pivotal role collaboration played in Edison’s innovation prowess. He viewed collaboration as the beating heart of his laboratories, a sustaining resource which fuelled the knowledge assets of his sprawling innovation empire.

EDISON 2

Thomas A Edison

Rising from humble beginnings, Edison was largely self-educated, pursuing his relentless passion for learning well into his 70s, when he taught himself botany. Deeply skilled in chemistry, telegraphy, acoustics, materials science, and electro-mechanics, Edison’s thirst for discovery began in his early teens and never ceased. Like a magnetic force all its own, Edison’s brainy leanings drew others to his quests, attracting bright colleagues with a huge diversity of skills.

From his earliest years renting space in workshops and small laboratories, Edison collaborated with others. Realizing the value of sharing his inspirations with people who held different skills than he did, Edison felt a unique bond with those who labored with him. In establishing his famed Menlo Park Laboratory at the age of 29, Edison journeyed from the failure of his first patented invention at age 22 to becoming a world-renowned inventor in just 7 years, establishing collaboration practices which came to be a signature of his campus-style operations.

Midnight Lunch – Published by Wiley – is a book from his descendant Sarah Miller Caldicott. It challenges each reader to examine the ambitions they’ve set for themselves, re-imagining what one person is capable of producing when they work in true collaboration.

The linkage between innovation and collaboration underscores why Edison’s collaborative approach becomes such a relevant subject for us now. Given the increased scrutiny placed on the role of innovation as a driver of growth for every economy – whether emerging or developed – we must ask whether collaboration is also engaged. Like a symbiotic organism which can only thrive when its host is present, innovation can only gain sustainable traction when true collaboration also exists.

I had the privilege of a pre-publication read of Midnight Lunch (Edisonian employee ritual) and can’t recommend it highly enough for any that see innovation and collaboration as the way to future business success and a higher purpose.

© Wiley Publishing and Author Sarah Miller Caldicott 

Twitter: @WileyBiz and @SarahCaldicote

COLLABORATION 2

Curated by Trevor Lee

@trevorblee

http://www.ep-i.net

http://www.ceo-worldwide.com

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To Motivate Employees, Show Them How Their Work Helps Customers


We all want to know that our jobs matter.

When an employee’s work seems lacklustre, or office morale is low, remind them of who their work helps.

Giving someone a concrete picture of their work’s impact can be self-affirming as well as motivational.

Studies have shown that cooks feel more motivated and work harder when they see people eating their food, for example.

Even if the results of your employees’ work aren’t so tangible, giving them specific names and stories of those who’ve benefited from their efforts can offer a window into the good that their work does.

So take time to talk about the customer who is able to make more sales (and therefore a better living) thanks to your company’s software, or the parent who’s driving a safe car thanks to diligence on the assembly line.

The key is to make a direct connection from the employee to those who benefit from their work.

MOTIVATE 2

Curated by Trevor Lee

https://www.linkedin.com/in/trevorblee

http://www.ep-i.net

http://www.ceo-worldwide.com

@trevorblee

Three steps to building a better top team.


When your top team fails to function, it will likely paralyze the whole company.

Few teams function as well as they could. But the stakes get higher with senior-executive teams: dysfunctional ones can slow down, derail, or even paralyze a whole company. McKinsey in their work with top teams at more than 100 leading multinational companies, including surveys with 600 senior executives at 30 of them, they identified three crucial priorities for constructing and managing effective top teams. Getting these priorities right can help drive better business outcomes in areas ranging from customer satisfaction to worker productivity and many more as well.

1. Get the right people on the team . . . and the wrong ones off

Determining the membership of a top team is the CEO’s responsibility—and frequently the most powerful lever to shape a team’s performance. Many CEOs regret not employing this lever early enough or thoroughly enough. Still others neglect it entirely, assuming instead that factors such as titles, pay grades, or an executive’s position on the org chart are enough to warrant default membership. Little surprise, then, that more than one-third of the executives they surveyed said their top teams did not have the right people and capabilities.

The key to getting a top team’s composition right is deciding what contributions the team as a whole, and its members as individuals, must make to achieve an organization’s performance aspirations and then making the necessary changes in the team. This sounds straight-forward, but it typically requires conscious attention and courage from the CEO; otherwise, the top team can under-deliver for an extended period of time.

2. Make sure the top team does just the work only it can do

Many top teams struggle to find purpose and focus. Only 38 percent of the executives McKinsey surveyed said their teams focused on work that truly benefited from a top-team perspective. Only 35 percent said their top teams allocated the right amounts of time among the various topics they considered important, such as strategy and people.

3. Address team dynamics* and processes

A final area demanding unrelenting attention from CEOs is effective team dynamics, whose absence is a frequent problem: among the top teams McKinsey studied, members reported that only about 30 percent of their time was spent in “productive collaboration”—a figure that dropped even more when teams dealt with high-stakes topics where members had differing, entrenched interests.

Correcting dysfunctional dynamics requires focused attention and interventions, preferably as soon as an ineffective pattern shows up.

Finally, most teams need to change their support systems or processes to crystalize and embed change.

Each top team is unique, and every CEO will need to address a unique combination of challenges.

Developing a highly effective top team typically requires good diagnostics, followed by a series of workshops and field work to address the dynamics of the team while it attends to hard business issues. The best top teams will begin to take collective responsibility and to develop the ability to maintain and improve their own effectiveness, creating a lasting performance edge.

© McKinsey & Co • Michiel Kruyt, Judy Malan, and Rachel Tuffield

 

*To build strong teams I recommend:

TGI 2

developed by

The Gabriel Institute

website teamability.com

Curated by Trevor Lee

https://www.linkedin.com/in/trevorblee

@trevorblee

http://www.ep-i.net

http://www.ceo-worldwide.com

Encourage Collaboration – Make It Easier


Collaboration takes time and resources. So if you want people to work together, you have to make it as easy as possible.

For example, you can use simple, off-the-shelf tools like Dropbox and Skype to help people share and communicate. (Be sure that any programs you use work seamlessly with your IT system.)

If some of your employees aren’t confident with the technology, pair them with someone who is. People are much more likely to adopt a new technology if they have someone they can turn to for help, rather than learning it on their own or relying on an IT hotline.

And for major collaboration projects, consider assigning co-leaders who can shoulder the administrative burdens.

Adapted from “How to Get People to Collaborate When You Don’t Control Their Salary,”
by Heidi K. Gardner

MIDDLE

Trevor Lee

tblee@ceo-worldwide.com

http://www.ceo-worldwide.com

@trevorblee

Set Clear Ground Rules for Your Virtual Team


All workplaces need ground rules, but they’re particularly important for remote work.

When a team is spread out among branch offices, coffee shops, and hotel lobbies, people may have wildly different ideas about what’s expected of them.

Make clear what kind of latitude and independence team members can expect, what resources will be available to them, and how much team members will be expected to travel.

If people work in different time zones, it’s critical to set ground rules around working hours, too. Managers should think about these questions:

  • What times of day are team members expected to be available?

  • How will you schedule meetings to accommodate each person?

  • What should people do if they find their responsibilities require them to work overtime or outside their scheduled hours?.

Giving the team this kind of guidance up front will help them work more effectively.

Trevor Lee

tblee@ceo-worldwide.com

http://www.ceo-worldwide.com

@trevorblee

Create an Ad Hoc Leadership Circle to Generate New Ideas


leadership-circle

When leaders need innovative ideas to grow their company, they often turn to their direct reports for guidance. But this group, by design, represents the current operating units and functions, which often have a status quo to defend.

So when you need creative thinking, try forming a leadership circle, a diverse, ad hoc team of 15–18 people from throughout the company who can work together for about six months.

The circle should focus on the future, not the past, and healthy debate should be encouraged. Within the circle, each member should hold equal status and should not feel that he or she is being asked to represent the point of view of accounting, sales, shipping, or whatever their home department is.

Most important, whatever ideas come out of a leadership circle should be handled in the same way they were generated: They should be rigorously and systematically discussed, debated, and explored.

Adapted from “To Seize the Future, Create a Leadership Circle,” by Joseph Pistrui

leadership-circle

Trevor Lee

tblee@ceo-worldwide.com

http://www.ceo-worldwide.com

@trevorblee

Experiential Discovery Learning


A guest post from Alan Matcham

Partner in Accelerance – Leadership for Business Performance

Bridging the knowing-doing gap

knowledge-2

Knowing is not the problem

Organisations are full of intellectually bright executives who have no trouble articulating a good game. Consequentially they produce an endless array of professional looking, well intentioned strategic plans, presentations, action lists, commitment statements and meeting minutes. The problem is that most, if not all, of these well intentioned initiatives fail to deliver on the majority of what they set out to achieve. This is known as; “The Knowing-Doing Gap.” The difference between what you know needs doing and what actually gets done.

Jeff Pfeffer the renowned Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Stanford Graduate School of Business and co-author of “The Knowing – Doing Gap” states it very clearly, “If you know by doing, there is no gap between what you know and what you do.”

Working with Executives over many years I have found there to be two constants in any effective learning or transformational experience. The first is the power of discovery and the second is the power of doing. Combined, these approaches have a significant impact in translating new insights into positive action. They are also inextricably linked because to discover you need to do and to do you need to discover.

This has huge implications for anyone involved in Executive Development. Designing interventions that make executives intellectually richer with more content, more concepts, more models, more theories and more plans runs the risk of fuelling the knowing-doing gap. On the other hand if you design interventions that are grounded in real business issues and learning by doing then the change that is sought will more likely be achieved.

Discovery & Doing

At its heart discovery is learning from the unorthodox and the unusual and appreciating there is learning in everything. It is about taking time to “walk in other worlds”, to get your hands dirty, to ask great questions, to let go, to see, to feel and to experience new, different and challenging perspectives and ways of doing things. In doing so the aim is to bring new and fresh insights to address an increasing array of highly complex and adaptive business challenges related to change, innovation, creativity, agility, collaboration and transformation

Organisations seeking to create a cadre of executives who will lead change, build a more innovative culture or transform their organisation in some fundamental way will not do so by seeking inspiration or insight from people in the same industry, with the same world view or with the same basic DNA. That approach inevitably leads to sameness not difference.

I go to a meeting with a group of managers who attended the programme. Met them earlier where they fired questions at me. Thought initially this programme was a bit weird.

What do visits to Salvation Army, eating in the dark with blind people and talking to researchers from Shell have to do with leading better in the bank? I was mistaken.

Entering and discovering a completely different world and to hear how motivated others are, how they take responsibility and innovate is an inspiration to think about your own role.

During the meeting today, I hear how participants take initiatives to break through their own ways of doing and realise concrete improvements. What triggers me most is that they do not talk about what others should do better, but what they themselves can do differently and better.”

Genuine quote

Chairman of a major European Bank – 2012

How and what to discover?

If you believe, as I do, that the ultimate aim of executive education is to help people think things through for themselves and their unique context then discovery should be at the core of any learning strategy. The role of the expert facilitator or programme director is to create the context within which discovery learning is optimised. This is achieved by encouraging a set of skills and behaviours which:

  • Develop curiosity

  • Develop the ability to ask great questions

  • Engage all the senses

  • Learn how to learn and find learning in everything.

  • Observe the world through different lenses

  • Experience and feel new or different emotions

  • Try new things through experimentation and testing

In my experience the most effective discovery experiences have tended to follow certain basic steps which are outlined below. Each step requires significant attention but perhaps none more than the actual execution of the experience itself. It is crucial that all participants play an active role and are fully engaged.

Over the years I have led many discovery experiences. Below are a few examples of what is possible and the learning that is available. All are based on genuine examples where the discovery experience has been tailored to specific learning objectives to help resolve specific business challenges.

The Discovery experience

The Learning

The Business Challenge or Issue

Junior school in rural China

Challenging the traditional system of learning

Culture change

Salvation Army in Holland

A cause worth serving, humility and compassion

Employee engagement.

Blind Community in Hong Kong

Overcoming adversity and working with all your senses

Collaboration, resilience and communication.

Creating and reciting poetry in Singapore

Everyone has capability and talent. Building leadership confidence

Effective communication and meaning making.

Playing Jazz and Blues in Chicago

Creativity and team work as well as fun

Interdependencies and team work. Joy in work.

Prisoner reform group in Holland

Changing deep seated behaviours and potential in everyone

Behavioural change and business transformation.

Monastery and meditation in Europe

How to reflect and be in the moment. Self awareness

Finding time to think and reflect rather than just do.

High end restaurant in Vietnam

Discipline, clarity of role, all one team and client insight.

Customer intimacy

Children’s charity for those out of mainstream education in UK

Engagement, trust, compassion and meaning

Personal and team transformation

In conclusion

Knowing is not enough and knowing more is not enough, the translation into doing is everything if meaningful change is to be achieved. Doing and knowing should not be mutually exclusive and the most effective executive programmes understand this and design in these critical attributes.

About the author:

Alan Matcham (alan.matcham@btinternet.com): Is an internationally experienced executive development programme director, facilitator and educator. A passion for making work fit for people and people fit for work. His expertise is focused on Leadership and Management transformation, working to release the untapped potential in all employees. He has a record of enabling public and private sector organisations rise to the complex challenges of the 21st century.

Curated by Trevor Lee

http://www.ep-i.net

http://www.ceo-worldwide.com

@trevorblee