In my last article I wrote about some of the key things that need to be considered before any collaboration can commence. The first item listed was governance. This is one of the areas that, when properly structured, can eradicate a host of concerns. Having said that, it is very clear that there will be a lot more development in the collaboration space, particularly because of concerns that collaboration may expose partners to risk. One of the articles selected for this week’s recommendation touches on the legislative part of collaboration, which is a really welcome development as I think this will be an ongoing concern as the discipline matures. As the article points out, apart from the partners, the public’s concern in respect to the way collaborations are structured is a critical aspect of the entire discipline if it is to live up to its reputation. A range of articles in this week’s selection point to the almost never ending sense of possibilities, which is vital for both innovation and the resilience of any enterprise.

Australian designer Marc Newson's vision of a car. Many common use items are now product of collaboration between designers and production companies.

Australian designer Marc Newson’s vision of a car. Many common use items are now product of collaboration between designers and production companies.

3 Tips for Effective Interagency Collaboration

Coordinating policy across multiple agencies is a major challenge for many federal program managers and leaders. Responsibilities are not always neatly divided within agencies or even between agencies. The results are conflicting policies, duplication of effort and inefficiency. At the core of the issue is each federal agency’s struggle to hold on to what it defines as its responsibility and mission space. A 2011 Government Accountability Office report identified 34 areas in which agencies have overlapping initiatives. In 2013, the updated GAO report didn’t indicate much improvement. Thirty-one areas were still identified with significant “fragmentation, overlap, and duplication.”..READ ON


Proposed legislation targets collaboration between industry and professionals

lawFor the benefit of both industry and society in general, it is usual for industry to establish collaborations with healthcare professionals in order for them to conduct research activities, participate in advisory boards, provide consulting and possess other positions of trust in a company – all in order to advance research and knowledge within the pharmaceutical and medical device fields. However, a few unfortunate stories in the media have caused a loss of confidence among the Danish public with regard to such collaborations. In light of these developments, the proposal aims to renew public confidence by ensuring increased transparency. The proposal introduces two new transparency models – a notification model and an approval model…READ ON


Council formed for collaboration among medical institutions

The council was formed during a meeting of heads of medical education departments of public and private sector medical colleges, at the University of Health Sciences (UHS). UHS Pro-Vice Chancellor Junaid Khan chaired the meeting. Those who attended the meeting said the council had been formed to develop a roadmap for better coordination among the institutions affiliated with UHS. The meeting agreed that the council would oversee research, teaching and professional development of the people concerned. It would also provide support for curriculum development and assessment, they said. A core-committee of the CCME was set up and Dr Musarratul Hasnain of Punjab Medical College, Faisalabad, was elected its president…READ ON


League urges more collaboration to meet mental health needs

More collaboration and less competition is needed among providers, according to the report. A siloed approach to the recruitment of much-needed psychiatrists for children and adults is one example of how stronger cooperation could bring a broader range of success, said Sullivan. The county lacks short-term stabilization beds to help people avoid hospitalization or incarceration, added Sullivan. A proposal from Chestnut Health Systems for funding such a facility is pending with the county’s Board of Health. The 14-bed center would operate in conjunction with a mobile crisis program, under the Chestnut proposal…READ ON


Working Together to Recognize Volunteers…and More

April has rolled around again, bringing National Volunteer Week to North America (and to other countries over the next months). Most of us have learned the value of showing appreciation all year long, but this designated week gives us the chance to consider how we thank the time donors who are so important to us. In addition, it raises the issue of how ridiculously busy most leaders of volunteers are and how great the potential is for working together to accomplish common objectives…READ ON


Cisco unveils video collaboration solution

Cisco has unveiled a new video and collaboration solution, which, it says, is designed for organisations of all sizes. According to a company statement,the solution allowsusers to effectively share video and content in rooms of any size depending on their needs as well as the setup of the room. “Previous attempts to deliver collaboration have been incremental and good. But the cold, hard truth is that today’s collaboration tools are forcing users to do today’s jobs with yesterday’s technology, says Conrad Steyn, collaboration product sales specialist at Cisco SA. “It is time for a change. The industry is ready for a great leap forward, and Cisco is making that leap. These new products represent the first phase of a multi-phase roll-out in how Cisco is reimagining collaboration and setting the foundation for a revolution in the industry; stay tuned for more.”..READ ON


The acclaimed Australian designer on his collaboration with Safilo and how all design is problem-solving

Iconic Marc...

Iconic Marc…

Recently, we reported on the launch of a new collaboration between Safilo and acclaimed Australian designer Marc Newson, meant to celebrate 80 years of activity for the historic Italian eyewear company. At Milan Design Week, we had the honor to talk to Newson himself. In a totally white space filled with light, in the historic halls of La Triennale, the designer spoke about manufacturing processes, signature products, heritage and the future of design…READ ON


…and now for something completely different…


The Indispensable Power of Story

Some people have a way of making the complex clear. They know who they are, why they do what they do, and where they want to go. Because they have internalized all this, they are able to sharply crystallize ideas and vision. They speak in simple, relatable terms. And they can get a lot accomplished. Making your words understandable and inspirational isn’t about dumbing them down. Instead, it requires bringing in elements such as anecdote, mnemonic, metaphor, storytelling, and analogy in ways that connect the essence of a message with both logic and emotion. Almost everyone leading or creating has a vision, but the challenge is often expressing it in ways that relate and connect. Quick, think of some former Presidents of the United States and presidential candidates. Which ones are most memorable? Which ones are most likable? Which ones won? The leaders who stick in your mind are likely the ones who humanize their message and deliver it in ways that connect with everyone at some level, in turn inspiring others to relate to them while better appreciating the mission at hand…READ ON


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Collaboration: what you should know before you start door knocking

Starting a collaboration can sometime be similar to starting a diet. You reach a point where you acknowledge that collaboration is a strategy your business should really engage in, but for whatever reason you are still drawn to urgent but less critical things. Procrastination or not, it is certainly not unusual to delay important issues. In business, there is a price to pay in delaying, and there is a risk to underestimating major drivers such as collaboration.

The first step towards collaboration is, in fact, not that easy to make. The familiarity of the concept of collaboration is such that we easily develop an overblown sense of confidence that we can cooperate easily once we start. The fact is that very quickly after you start the real work, there are more questions than answers. However, this is also where the real creative, strategic, innovative and rewarding work starts. I will try here to not reduce the entire discipline of collaboration into a few key bullet points, but at the same time provide some useful pointers that may serve as a necessary exercise before any collaboration. In this instance I will focus on five points that, when well understood, should go a long way towards making the collaboration process rewarding and effective.


1. Have you thought hard enough about governance?

By far the least favourite and least understood area of collaboration and yet the most likely area of potential risk in the long run is governance. Collaboration is not that well legislated in corporate law. It is also not well understood because most of the major successful business stories of the past were not collaborative in nature. That is going to change in the not too distant future, and for many this will be a major field of work focus. The nature of risk in this space is tricky. For instance, when are you collaborating vs colluding? Regardless of the complexities of this question, the answer lies in diligent work of setting up a clear governance model that suits the collaborative partners.


2. Do you have a lead person?

While collaboration indicates a level playing field, it does not mean that hierarchy is not welcome nor possible. On the contrary, hierarchy in a collaboration is a very effective approach, however it is very different to the way it works in a traditional enterprise. For that reason it is absolutely critical to have a lead person that can start the ball rolling. This is not to suggest that only one person should develop the collaboration. It only means that at the beginning there should be a clear lead person who can set things into motion and ensure processes are followed until the main architecture of the collaborative is set in place. The choice of lead person is a critical decision.


3. Are you prepared for a diversity of responses (including broken promises)?

Without a shadow of a doubt, all collaborations are very likely to experience a lot of changes as they go about achieving their goal. One of the very common and often very disheartening scenarios is seeing one or more collaborating partners fail to operate as agreed. They may cite a range of reasons, including internal factors in their own organisation (such as, ‘we have a new CEO’) which prevents them from being committed in the way they initially indicated. Many of these changes can seriously disrupt the flow of the collaboration. These kinds of factors have to be anticipated and analysed, and remedial strategies put in place. Collaborations are disruptions, but they are also subject to disruptions!


4. Are you prepared for a marathon?

marathonCollaboration is a tour de force. It is very much possible that a collaborating partner can experience a full range of challenges that are also common in a traditional business setting. The difference in the collaboration context is that partners need to be able to deal with those changes in a more resilient way. The lure of collaboration should not override the due diligence and self-examination that every partner (big or small) should conduct before committing. Entering into a collaboration without knowledge of one’s own capacity to sustain the effort is unfair to the other partner/s. More critically, it can damage your own brand and render it irrelevant for future collaborations.


5. Are you ‘trying’ or ‘doing’?

Do not underestimate the wisdom of ‘the Force’. Yoda makes a perfect point in saying that there is no trying, only doing. Successful enterprises, regardless of size or type, can be separated from the rest by their attitude to any strategy; adhering principally to strategy and having a clear commitment to actually doing what is necessary, as opposed to always ‘trying’ and thus subtly revealing a lack of belief in the goal. Collaboration will test your drive and determination like nothing else. It is guaranteed to make you doubt the final goal, and it will make you wonder if there was a better (in reality we mean easier) way to achieve that goal. All this is heavily influenced by the simple fact that the proportion of initial enthusiasm expressed in most collaborations is not realistically sustainable. This naturally creates the perfect situation for a low point. However, as with most difficulty things worth doing, a resilience attitude, based on drive and grit and supported by talent and skill will pay strong dividends.

So may you start the collaboration with the wisdom of Master Yoda in mind; “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.

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Harvard Business Review’s Spring Edition of ‘OnPoint’ is all about collaboration. For the collaboration–minded, this is like a perfect slice of heaven. Let me share. Philip Evans and Bob Wolf wrote an extensive piece on the rules of collaboration. The piece itself was originally published back in 2005 and evidently is still just as relevant. One interesting thing they share was in relation to the way successful companies understand innovation and collaboration. The authors cite Toyota president Fujio Cho who remarked that “Detroit people are far more talented than people in Toyota, but we take averagely talented people and make them work as spectacular teams”. The authors were discussing the broader points of collaboration in car manufacturing sectors and wanted to make the point that, as they said, ‘the network is the innovator’. The point of the link between collaboration, innovation, productivity and business resilience cannot be understated. With that in mind, the following recommended readings may add a bit to the collaboration tool box every company or enterprise should have.

"Every company strives to be as innovative as possible, but what does that mean to you?" Source:

“Every company strives to be as innovative as possible, but what does that mean to you?”

First Americas Competitiveness Exchange Encourages Collaboration, Drives Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Western Hemisphere

Competition and collaboration aren’t typically mentioned in the same breath. For nations and businesses competing to innovate and prosper in a global marketplace, these concepts seem completely antithetical to one another. That’s why the first Americas Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Exchange) is such a unique and exciting partnership. As part of the Exchange, senior officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) and Economic Development Administration (EDA) last week led a delegation of 45 business and government leaders from 20 Latin American and Caribbean countries on a tour across the Southeast United States…READ ON


Collaboration & The Art Of Creative Disagreement

We talked previously about collaboration and the art of creative disagreement. That means finding collaborative partners who will not be yesmen, who will challenge you, and push the project to a new level. I’ve been fortunate to have some wonderful collaborative relationships, both in theater and film. I started in theater writing plays for my brother Chris’ theater company, igLoo, in Chicago. Having a brother as a collaborator can be tricky, but early on my brother and I were seeing it the same…READ ON


Innovation, collaboration and their citizens make cities smart

A smart city is not just smart technology. “A smart city is a city which can provide- with fewer resources- more efficiency, more services for its citizens and a higher quality of life in a rapidly urbanizing world,” says, Gino Van Begin, Secretary General, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. As cities move towards becoming smart cities intricacies of networking, involvement and innovation become a reality. “It has become obvious that we need much more interconnectivity and interaction of all responsibilities within a city and also within businesses to work towards creating smart cities,” says Monika Zimmermann, Deputy Secretary General of ICLEI. Solutions no longer work in a bubble, a city’s needs are never singular and therefore solutions cannot be limited to one sphere…READ ON


Charitable Giving Cools as More Consumers Turn to Responsible Shopping as Way to “Give Back”

In a poll of 1,010 Americans, 30 percent of consumers said they plan to increase the amount of goods and/or services they buy from socially responsible companies in the coming year, a modest uptick from 29 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, only 18 percent plan to increase charitable giving in 2014, a decline from 21 percent in 2013. One in five consumers (19%) said they prefer to “give back” by purchasing socially responsible products, while another 39 percent preferred to split their giving between charities and cause-based brands. When asked to select reasons for preferring socially responsible purchases over charitable contributions, more than half (52%) said it was an easier way for them to give back consistently. Just under half (48%) also reported it was a more effective way to support positive change or make a difference…READ ON


Social and Business Collaboration: A Human Science

Liking is not Leading (IBM)

Liking is not Leading (IBM)

As our businesses become more complex, it’s up to all of us to work harder at humanizing our approach in everything we do. On top of this, as businesses become more social, collaboration is becoming the most critical business competitive advantage. An efficiently run collaborative company isn’t just more nimble; its collective intelligence can innovate faster than any time before. As social enterprises are changing the rules for employees, new tools are helping to break the barrier for disconnected internal structures, giving employees more contextual control. This new contextualization empowers humans to interact naturally in a way that makes sense to them, supported by internal systems – instead of forcing systems to try to make people interact in a way that seems very impersonal and removed from our innate voice…READ ON


Regional collaboration emerges as economic growth strategy

When you work together, you work better. That’s the lesson local officials say they have learned as they try to lift the region out of manufacturing industry declines and a shaky economy. Gone are the days of so-called territorialism, they say, as the perception of nearby communities as fierce competition is now being viewed as an opportunity for a partnership. “That’s really at the crux of the matter,” said Tim Terrentine, a vice president at Southwest Michigan First. “How do we win in this globally, more competitive environment? You can’t do it standing by yourself. And those that believe that you can are quickly becoming irrelevant.”..READ ON


Factors to consider when collaborating with other think tanks

One of the objectives of the The Exchange is to understand why policy research institutes do or do not collaborate, and what determines the success of the collaborations that do take place. After discussing with colleagues from different think tanks around the world, we were able to identify external and internal factors affecting collaboration between our organizations. Moreover, we identified some features related to the type collaboration that should also be considered…READ ON


…and now for something completely different…


Google’s Renewed Amsterdam Office is a Total Playground


Google has created yet another well designed office, this time in the city of Amstersdam. Designed by D/DOCK, the interior speaks to the fun aspects of Dutch culture. There are bicycle carriers, emblems of the royal family and yes, even large ceiling panels resembling the popular stroopwafel dessert. (See Also Inside the Amazing New Google Offices in Tel Aviv). The design inspiration came from the original garage that Larry Page and Sergey Brin worked in when developing Google as Stanford computer science students in the nineties. Interior decor such as graffiti walls, cardboard box lights and a theater room speak to this ‘birth period’ in the Google history…READ ON

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The collaboration trap: how to avoid being Buzz Lightyear

There is a scene in the Toy Story animated film (by the way, I strongly recommend all three of the movies) when Buzz Lightyear, the supremely self-confident toy space ranger, believes he is really flying while in fact he is being carried upwards by an elevator. However the scene doesn’t really warrant major analysis, in part because it is very familiar and many variations on the theme exist. Look no further than our daily lives and we can see children who do similar things. Adults do it too. Sometimes the boundaries between real and imagined may be very subtle, and this may be a more common problem than we’d like it to be. Knowing when we’re flying as a result of our own ability as opposed to other forces is relevant to any collaborative venture.


Overstating our own contribution and ability in the process of collaboration can get a project stuck in neutral real quick. Collaboration does not always fit neatly into just any kind of project management matrix. Let me clarify; external collaborations do not fit neatly, as opposed to internal ones which are based on much stricter governances. Internal collaborations tend to build on internal processes and organisational culture is very much part of that. On the other hand, external collaborations are far more complex, precisely because of a lack of known factors, the factors we like to control. In sum, this creates a precondition for behaviours that are not necessarily suitable for collaborations. For example, when entering into a collaborative arrangement, parties tend to display (not surprisingly) a sense of confidence to each other. However, that confidence can raise a barrier to trust-building, which is vital. In a collaborative environment, what comes as unexpected to many people is the spotlight and scrutiny by peers. Convincing a partner or partners that your organisation can be a great partner is one thing; living up to expectations is a story from another galaxy. An easy mistake to make and even easier to avoid when the collaboration strategy has been developed beforehand.

American author and educator Stephen Covey once remarked that “strength lies in differences, not in similarities”; by default both an attractive and complex insight to master. And yet it is the crucial aspect of collaboration, whether internal or external. What works against it are two factors; required change by all collaboration stakeholders and readjustment of participants’ own understanding of their capabilities. It can be brutally discomforting to hear from other partners that the capacity your organisation is bringing to the collaboration is simply not to the expected standard. This means that selecting a collaboration that is right for your organisation is not an easy task. It requires more than offering a list of capacities; it demands that the organisation thinks about the relevance of its own capacities to potential partners. Sometimes we may be forced to admit that systems, skills, resources etc. that work well for our organisation in its current setting may not amount to much when placed into a different business model. And, yes, collaboration is a business model that is not a simple tweaking exercise, but a ‘from the ground-up’ thinking process.

It is only when the proper amount of internal introspection is undertaken by senior management that a strategy can deliver on the promise of collaboration-driven benefits. I recall one example when I was negotiating a collaboration with a partner organisation that was much larger then my own at the time. I always remember how the months of discussion seemed a bit over the top at times. It was only a year into the collaboration project that I realised how valuable the small things can be. It is precisely for that reason that engagement with potential collaborating partners is a long process; a genuine amount of time must be dedicated to learn about others and their capability to succeed when collaboration reaches critical stages.

Taking time to ensure how much you can fly without the aid of an elevator goes a long way towards a great collaboration outcome.


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Researching for this week’s edition of recommended reading I found quite a few articles covering different industries where the thrust of the report was the conviction that collaboration is the key to either solving some major challenges, like in the case of the aviation industry and safety in light of the missing Malaysian plane. Hardly a new angle for collaboration, but very encouraging to see that a hot topic is actually not overheating but genuinely being better understood. In this selection of articles the diversity of areas and angles where collaboration is a major or critical factor once again is a reflection on the deep reach collaborative practice is able to achieve. In particular I point to the article on the future of global business operations; in my view a great insight into, among other areas, the way collaboration will feature.


Art of collaboration: when creatives, coders and councils join forces

In many major cities in the US and Europe artists are involved in social change projects. At the same time, other volunteers offer coding or data-crunching skills to civic initiatives, working with city officials, charities and advocacy groups. These people operate in silos, largely unaware of other groups working on similar projects. My goal is to start a conversation between deeply engaged creative workers – whether they be coders, designers, data analysts, visual artists, theatre performers, musicians, or other innovators – to prompt more effective and lasting collaborations…READ ON


"Collaboration takes place when people come together in a team effort to share and achieve a common goal."  - Arielle de la Loyère  Source:

“Collaboration takes place when people come together in a team effort to share and achieve a common goal.” – Arielle de la Loyère

Knowable: Collaboration for Hardware Engineers

How can people come together to make a hardware product? That’s the question Simon Höher and his co-founders are setting out to answer with their new online platform, Knowable is a website that, at first glance, looks like many other project sharing websites. You can post your project, something you’ve made, and others can find projects, learn about them, comment and share. So I spoke with Simon to find out their vision for Knowable, what they’re setting out to build, and how they think hardware makers can work better together…READ ON


Collaboration could fuel rise of the independent retailer

1Independent retailers have it tough with competition from chain stores, the rise of e-commerce, and reduced consumer spending power. But with a little help from friends, they can do more than simply get by. Tim Lewis believes small retailers are an important part of society and says it’s important to see them thrive. He says they can do so through collaboration with others…READ ON


How to Build a Culture of Innovation Pt. 2: The 12 Pillars of Innovation

In part one of this series on how to build a culture of innovation, I focused on the challenges organizations face as they inevitably face disruption from direct and emergent competitors. But it’s not just external competition, it’s also internal forces that prevent companies from unlocking creativity to compete. As Viktor E. Frankl once said, “It isn’t the past which holds us back, it’s the future; and how we undermine it, today.” Why do we need to change? We’re profitable today! Change is for everyone else right? Wrong…READ ON


Collaborating Is a Waste of Time If It Falls Into These 4 Traps

Collaboration is a hot topic these days. With the rise of distributed workforces, the pressing need to get the most out of limited resources and the potential opportunities that mobile, social and cloud technologies bring to bear, companies spend a lot of time promoting collaboration as a way to be more efficient…READ ON


The future of global business operations

Intelligent-enterprise-business-020-00Global business process operations will be asked to play an increasingly important role in the future of corporate competitiveness – and not be confined solely to supplying a cost-effective foundation. Global operations will need to support the quest for new markets, emerging or local, and adjust to an ever-changing marketplace and evolving regulatory requirements. The transformation will require operations to pay close attention to three trends related to talent, technology, and process management…READ ON


…and now for something completely different…


10 Surprising Ways to Transform Your Creative Thinking

3We’ve written about creativity a few times on the Buffer blog, but it’s hard to keep track of everything we learn about it. One day I’m adjusting the temperature in my workspace, and the next I’m trying to put off creative work until I’m tired. If you’re in the same boat, and you find it’s difficult to remember what will improve your creativity and when you should do your most creative work, hopefully this list will help you get it all straight…READ ON


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The art of moving on

Let’s face it; if you play with fire you may well get burnt. Collaboration is a little bit like fire, but like the camp fire; we really do love it. Nevertheless, there is an inevitable (and directly proportionate to one’s experience) time when things will not go the desired way. Far from this being a hint to quit the collaboration and treat it just as an experiment, we must learn and move on to the next project better prepared.

it can be as simple as that

it can be as simple as that

These days I find that there are two broad groups of organisations that seek advice on collaboration; the ones that have tried it once, got disappointed and then decided to stay clear from it for as long as they could (basically burying their business heads in the sand), and those who have never executed any serious collaboration but are now fast reacting to this strong business driver. What both groups tend to have in common is suspicion, which is often rationalised by remarks such as; ‘how hard can it be?’, or ‘we’ve tried it and it doesn’t work’. I tend to ask people, with an adjustable degree of ‘tongue in cheek’, did they ever consider collaboration to be a complex discipline which may not bear fruit after only one try? In fact in the years of practicing and learning about collaboration, I find, thankfully, that the chances of success are directly related to the amount of dedication, skill and sometimes business grit applied. In fact in this post GFC period it is exactly those attributes, combined with innovative entrepreneurialism and what I call auteur leadership that can convert collaboration into a competitive edge and achieve the outcomes an enterprise desires.

Generally speaking there is no ‘one size fits all’ type of advice on how to handle collaboration that has not reached a set goal. Obviously, the root causes of failure can invariably be linked to a weak strategy and failing to identify a clear goal, weaknesses in practice and culture that one partner may have, an unclear governance model, poor risk management, and so on. Collaboration (I tend to repeat this a lot) is not about being noble; it is about being reasonable and serious about our own legacy. This is important for the key people in any organisation to understand in today’s environment with high staff turnover and less focus of many (including great performing) staff on the legacy they leave after they move on to another job. Collaboration is not particularly well suited for those who seek quick return and a lot of kudos. It is, and should always be, overseen by ‘cathedral builders’, not ‘stone cutters’.

Trust comes up almost more than any other attribute or feature when we talk about collaboration. Not surprising, but also problematic. It is a heavily loaded term placing a substantial burden on collaborating parties in a moral frame; more so than in a business transaction sense. How much trust should we expect from our collaborating partner/s? What is a realistic point of reference? Should we seek the same level of trust from our business co-workers and stakeholders as we do from our friends and family? If so, why? If not, why not? Getting trust wrong is almost guaranteed to lead us to anything but collaborative success. Having said that, trust cannot and should not be used to offset the inefficiencies in diligence that collaboration demands. Collaborating partners can inadvertently create risks (particularly reputational ones) that have little to do with trust and a lot to do with well a laid out strategy.

What lessons we gain from failed collaboration essentially depends, not on our intelligence as students, but rather on the way we structure the collaboration in the first place. In other words, it is easy to apply logic when trying to understand what went wrong. Instead we should seek insight by asking the right questions which is only possible when we get the strategy right. As a rule of thumb, I advise my clients to keep one question in mind (a quick health check) throughout the process of collaboration; “When this project is over would I do another project with the same collaborating partner?” If at any moment the original sense of hope, excitement, confidence and dedication is not there, then it is worth pausing and examining the collaboration to ensure issues are not compounded.

The decision to move on from, or after, an unsuccessful collaboration should be a strategic decision about increasing the prospects of making the next collaboration much better. When a decision is made to walk away from a collaboration based on previous bad experiences, then that should be a strong signal to key leadership in any organisation that the major business driver has been ignored by a virtue of rationalising of organisational inaptitude. When it comes to collaboration in the 21st century, there’s very little room for sour grapes.


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collaboration in space

collaboration in space

Some say that a spider’s silk is one of the strongest materials known to humankind. Diamonds are another amazingly strong material. I wonder if perhaps one of the strongest intangible materials might be collaboration. Judging by the current Russo-American collaboration in space, i.e. the International Space Station (ISS), it seems that despite a very serious social and economic stand-off, collaboration between the two space powers remains unaffected. Is there a lesson here? Judge for yourselves. I am not at all surprised to see that a collaborative influence can be so powerful. Politics aside, it does seem like collaboration is penetrating the public psyche slowly but surely. This week’s selection of recommended reading is as diverse as it gets, which I hope will be sufficiently enticing to learn more about collaboration and apply some of its insights into day to day efforts. I too have been privileged to learn new things thanks to an engaged audience and clients who alert me to interesting material they research and are willing to share. To all of those who contributed, as always my heartfelt thanks.


Business Leaders See Collaboration as ‘crucial

The new study, ‘Content Collaboration and Processing in a Cloud and Mobile World’, by independent information management analysts AIIM, looked to assess how organizations have managed two growing collaboration needs: quickly and easily linking external users into the content-sharing environment and giving users access to collaborative content from their mobile devices…READ ON


Co-opetition: the new business buzzword

Forget about being ruthless in business – a more accommodating approach has taken its place. Imagine being granted access the archives of a competing business which has been trading for a decade longer than you? Or, being allowed to trawl through the client list of a business you’ve always admired? Welcome to the wonderful world of “co-opetition”, where businesses of all shapes and sizes are forming co-working arrangements, enabling them to become stronger competitors in the process…READ ON


Sen. Boxer urges collaboration on water policy

Rejecting what she called a “zero-sum” game that pits agricultural communities against urban areas, Sen. Barbara Boxer called on all water users on Thursday to work together to ensure everyone’s needs are met. “Too often in recent years we’ve been blocked from making progress by a culture of conflict that pits one stakeholder against another, with policies that only lead to one place: the courtroom door. I, your senator, challenge that policy,” she said. “All stakeholders must figure this out together…READ ON


Problems In Crimea Won’t Affect US – Russia Space Collaboration

Russia and the US have the largest space exploration programs in the worlds, respectively of course. The problem is that in order to efficiently work in space, you need to be an efficient team player; even if your team comes across an opposing team on the field. What I’m trying to say is that it’s important to work together in order to gather information about space, taking grudges into play when you’re not even in your planets gravitational pull is obviously something to take into consideration. The political tensions and economic pressures that are put on these foes is something isn’t going to affect how they handle business in space, the ISS (International Space Station) is going to continue on being as efficient as it always is…READ ON


Collaboration gets major projects off the ground

Michael A. Finney, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., said developing more collaboration in the state was a key goal when Rick Snyder was elected governor. The MEDC is a public-private partnership serving as the state’s lead agency for business and job growth. Finney was the keynote speaker at the investment awards event, which was held at the Johnson Center at Cleary University in Genoa Township…READ ON


Alliance aims to create arts collaboration

Arts-focused organizations need to source more inspiration from one creation: The Big Picture. “We have everything we need,” said Kitty Love, executive director of the Asheville Area Arts Council, during Saturday’s Creative Sector Summit. “It’s really a matter of bringing it together. The barriers have been a lack of communication and centralizing focus. “(Buncombe Cultural Alliance) is an effort to bring that all together.” Love led the Buncombe Cultural Alliance presentation and community feedback session Saturday morning at the Asheville Art Museum during the final day of the Creative Sector Summit…READ ON


Collaboration versus Solitude: Which One Drives Innovation?

Is collaboration precursor to innovation that leads to better productivity?

Is collaboration precursor to innovation that leads to better productivity?

America is the land of the Group. From universities to boardrooms and open-layout offices, we as students and employees are encouraged to work together within teams, and are taught from an early age that forming a group brainstorm or study session is the most effective way to learn and generate ideas. But is this “New Groupthink,” a term coined by Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” really the best platform…READ ON



Future of Work: Internal & External Collaboration

How has technology changed the nature of collaboration over the last decade? 10 years ago there was no Cloud, no iPhone, and no social media. Ubiquitous and immediate access to every corner of the Internet has changed mass culture as well as business culture. Immediacy and constant contact is normal, people feel entitled to it, and technology has both driven and been driven by this expanding entitlement. Email, Skype and its ilk, CRM platforms, social media, corporate content management systems – all of these are tools that facilitate communication and data exchange instantly, anywhere…READ ON


…and now for something completely different…

older people

Important Life Lessons: What’s The Most Important Life Lesson Older People Feel You Must Know?

Karl Pillemer of Cornell University interviewed nearly 1500 people age 70 to 100+ for his book “30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.” He asked them what life lessons they’d pass on…READ ON


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What happens when you collaborate for good looks?

To borrow a term from political spin doctors: ‘optics’ may matter a lot, but in collaboration they can actually be a major cost to your enterprise. The attraction of ‘looking good’ (I’m sure a communication guru would come up with a number of better ways to express it) is easy to grasp. Since Plato’s days to the recent work of contemporaries like Daniel Kahneman, we have been told that humans will pay a premium for things based on their appearance. The zillions of dollars spent on research in order to arrive at a point where evidence is the basis for our decisions still does not effectively compete with the “people are guided by ideas and very little else” observation by JK Galbraith.


Collaboration is the perfect concept for attracting those who think that a little bit of mingling, together with the sharing of some obsolete data, and topped with plenty of glossy marketing spin can pay huge dividends. Often it is not the bottom line that managers are after when choosing to collaborate, but rather the good impressions created when collaboration is believed to be part of the culture of an organisation. There’s no harm in generating good impressions. That is, until someone bothers to check.

I think these factors are way too great for any one person or institution to change. Culture is changed slowly and in a mediated and contested way. In this never-ending contest lies a grain of hope, opportunity, and for me personally, motivation to do the best one can. For a start, collaboration can play its best card when it disrupts; disrupts us, our systems, values, assumption, beliefs and actions. Sometimes collaboration is best when it destroys (creatively, as Schumpeter would say) in order to create. When creation, or innovation, happens through a collaborative approach to competition, then results normally are spectacular. This is not an exaggeration for added effect. It is a self-evident truth. Great things continue to be created when people collaborate in their own workplace and also across multiple workplaces. We haven’t yet reached the tipping point or had the ‘a ha!’ moment needed to realise that collaboration is a professional discipline that should be taught in universities. We should start now!

This brings me to my central point. Most people who choose to be doctors love the feeling of helping someone and the science of the human body, but do not love the paperwork that is a mandatory part of the job. However, a professional approach through education and training has done wonders for most if not all those disciplines that have emerged over decades or centuries, and that have been largely focused on things that are less attractive but in many ways far more critical. It is then that we will start to value collaboration less for its ‘good looks’ and much more for its professional, strategic and accountable outcome-impact driven practices. Collaboration built on what I term the ‘collaboration instinct’; good training, a professional attitude and strategy-centred practices, will no doubt be a front line that will carry some businesses further. My advice is this; get authentic about collaboration and you’ll be better looking.


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In all honesty, the supply of good examples about how well collaboration works is almost endless.  When I say good examples, I do not exclusively mean great collaboration stories.  It is more about facets of collaboration that can be valuable to an increasing number of people who recognise (albeit somewhat approximately) that skills, attitudes and capacities for collaboration, along with personal resilience, will be some of the most defining hallmarks of a future desired by employees.  Fairly soon, most job seekers (particularly those with a strong career bent) will be scrubbing their CV clean of many things they felt were the best attributes to promote to a potential employer.  Evidence of impeccable collaborative skills will not be easy to produce using a bit of self-marketing ingenuity.  Experienced employers who seek true collaboration will know where to look for indications of someone’s collaborative talent.

I hope ROADMENEDER can help add some value to both employers and job seekers through this selection of articles, which in this edition cover a very interesting spectrum of activities where collaboration is the key strategy.

As always my heartfelt thanks to colleagues who continue to provide feedback, suggestions and tips on interesting readings.

Collaborating with other businesses can build your bottom line

Business collaborations can be a crucial growth tool for cash-strapped startups and small business owners. Best described as a mutually beneficial relationship between two parties, a collaboration could see two businesses share staff, intellectual property, client lists or office space, for example. Jarryd Daymond is a project manager in the Faculty of Business and Economics at Macquarie University, where he negotiates and manages various collaborations on behalf of the educational institute. While collaborations are often broadly accepted as a good idea by many in business, actually negotiating successful collaborations can prove difficult, he says…READ ON

...mutually beneficial relationship...

…mutually beneficial relationship…

5 Benefits of Collaboration Software

Do you use collaboration software on your projects? I hope so, as it’s a really easy way to improve the relationships between your project team members. It lets you cut down on email and it’s a straightforward way to minimize the chances of miscommunication. On one of my projects, a miscommunication over email led to an email chain of over 30 messages – collaboration software would have stopped that long exchange, and probably stopped the miscommunication in the first place!…READ ON

Minister invites meat industry collaboration

New Zealand’s red meat industry is not ”on the way out” but innovation, collaboration and development of market opportunities are needed to lift profitability, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says.  Addressing Beef and Lamb New Zealand’s annual meeting, Mr Guy said the industry had some serious challenges.  Profitability would not be improved by ”doing more of the same, or by simply selling more of the same”…READ ON

Secrets of CMO-CIO collaboration from Baxter International [Hangouts on Air]

Late last year we at IT World Canada decided to host a couple of roundtable sessions about CIO-CMO collaboration. The talks involved people from both lines of business, and from some very major organizations across Canada. We decided that to build on that conversation we’d hold a Google Hangouts on Air session with one of the participants that had a lot to contribute. Sherif Sheta is the regional CIO for the Canadian division of Baxter International, which makes medical equipment and healthcare products. In some ways, Baxter is in front of the trend: it has three CMOs, one for each business product unit. And the firm has already created an analytical solution to reduce medication error rates…READ ON


Collaboration according to the most important philosopher ever to write in English.

Collaboration according to the most important philosopher ever to write in English.

“Your corn is ripe today; mine will be so tomorrow. ‘Tis profitable for us both, that I should labour with you today, and that you should aid me tomorrow. I have no kindness for you, and know you have as little for me. I will not, therefore, take any pains upon your account; and should I labour with you upon my own account, in expectation of a return, I know I should be disappointed, and that I should in vain depend upon your gratitude. Here then I leave you to labour alone; You treat me in the same manner. The seasons change; and both of us lose our harvests for want of mutual confidence and security.”   ―     David Hume

Nepal offers collaboration

LAHORE: Pakistan-Nepal Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) provides MFN treatment to both sides as it is aimed at promoting trade and investment in areas of mutual benefit, therefore, businessmen in the two countries should avail this opportunity to enhance volume of two-way trade. This was stated by Napalese Ambassador Bharat Raj Paudyal during a meeting with business community here at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Monday.  He said that Nepal-Pakistan Joint Economic Commission (JEC) at the level of finance ministers has been a useful forum for promotion of economic collaboration…READ ON

Collaboration in the Digital Marketing Industry

Digital marketing is all about fan interaction. You might have the greatest marketing campaign mankind has ever crafted, but if you’re ignored online then all of that masterful work would be for nothing. That might be a bad example, since the greatest marketing campaign ever drafted would be innately un-ignorable, but the fact remains—digital marketing relies on interaction and collaboration between consumer and provider…READ ON

Take a chance on SME: how collaboration can boost UK firms

collaboration groupBusinesses need to collaborate and learn from each other to help Britain grow, argues Wendy Tan. At a recent FSB conference, the Prime Minister announced the Government’s pledge to cut red tape, which is hindering the growth of the UK’s small businesses. We welcomed this news, particularly as a growing technology business based in the heart of London, but urge the Government to go further and work smarter in order to support SMEs…READ ON

Google summit focuses on innovation, collaboration

Brian Mueller, GCU’s president and CEO, welcomed those attending the summit.

Brian Mueller, GCU’s president and CEO, welcomed those attending the summit.

In his 1988 bestselling book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” author Robert Fulghum suggested that the best of life’s lessons could be found not in graduate school but in the Golden Rule sandbox: Play fair, say you’re sorry when you hurt someone, no hitting, flush.

At the top of Fulghum’s list: Share everything. An energetic team of Google experts, which spent two days this week at Grand Canyon University demonstrating the search giant’s coolest education apps, would not disagree…READ ON

…and now for something completely different…

Intelligent People More Likely to Trust Others

IQWhen it comes to trusting others, intelligent people are more likely to give the benefit of the doubt, while those who score lower on IQ tests are more likely to have trust issues, according to a new study by Oxford University. The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, are based on an analysis of the General Social Survey — a nationally representative public opinion survey given every one to two years…READ ON

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Collaborating as if it matters

Collaboration is not a discretionary strategy: it is primarily an emergent business sustainability driver.  A common habit of many managers is to aim for ‘low hanging fruit’ rather than taking a long term view.  Meeting monthly sales budgets is a prerogative that leaves little room for risky and in many ways disruptive strategies or approaches such as collaboration.  Be that as it may, nobody gets out unscathed from the trap offered by the sweetness of low hanging fruit.

Key benfits of social business workforce collaboration Source: Dion Hinchcliffe,

Key benefits of social business workforce collaboration
Source: Dion Hinchcliffe,

So what can be done to address this problem?  Without pretending that one simple solution would bear equally measurable results to every type of organisation, I would invoke something that can best be described as ‘intensive purpose’; an approach where the purpose of the total endeavour by any enterprise is underpinned by all key drivers, no matter how complicated they may seem at first.

Naturally or not, it is rare to hear of a business manager who does not account for all drivers in their strategy.  However, it is often the case that some emerging drivers are ignored, particularly if they are evolving and thereby lending themselves perfectly for doubt by established conventional wisdom

This leads to a second factor: examination of emergent drivers with increased opportunistic attitude.  Collaboration as a strategy invites us to think about competition as an innovation platform which produces new opportunities for growth.  Collaboration is then a market creation practice as much as a mode of production.  Collaborating entities realise that collaboration is not about splitting the pie in equal parts, but rather first and foremost about making a better tasting pie.  This new taste thus creates new demand, which previously was not on the radar of either of the collaborating entities.

This is not as same as suggesting that innovation cannot happen without collaboration.  It is the innovation for growth specifically that is far more likely to occur through collaboration, which is conceived as a business driver.  Some aspects of this type of collaboration is likely to make certain practices in any organisation obsolete or redundant, which, when it happens, is a good indicator that the organisation is undergoing real growth-driven change.  This should be a prerogative of all enterprises: a discretionary approach to collaboration is equivalent to avoiding investment in major IT systems or the like.  Postponing an attitudinal shift, from assuming that the collaboration can be adopted at any time, to understanding that it takes time for the practice to mature into a solid business culture, is not a matter of managerial discretion.  Rather, it is a question of business leadership and accountability whereby business resilience is undoubtedly dependent on how well enterprises understand, adapt and integrate emergent drivers.

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Collaboration is a bit of a buzzword right now.  But until one starts to delve deeper into all the facets of collaboration, it is hard to appreciate how much the ‘buzz’ is in fact much more than that.  In this week’s dispatch of ROADMENDER Recommends you can appreciate the role of collaboration in the emergence of major economic developments in the collaborative economy, the recognition of the business community in Australia that collaboration is not just about two people working together, an explosion of technological tools and apps that aid collaboration, a major transatlantic collaborative focus of global impact, as well as collaborative community building.  All the stories here are an indication of what is really only a fraction of the collaboration out there.  As the practice grows and improves, so too will the data necessary for improvement and recognition of collaboration as a discipline; a discipline that is seeing the emergence of new careers such as Chief Collaboration Officer (see article below) which is only a small indicator of things to come.

For now, my heartfelt thanks to colleagues who continue to provide feedback, suggestions and tips on interesting readings.


Aussie business looking for ‘more collaboration’ with customers

According to the global study by IBM, business leaders in Australia and in more than 69 other countries, have identified the top three priorities to improving customer engagement as creating a consistent customer experience (81%), quickly responding to emerging trends (77%) and combining internal and external data to gain insights (76%).  And, the IBM C-suite study, including face-to-face interviews with 97 Australian C-suite leaders, shows that taking a “digital-first approach” to customer collaboration will help the C-suite to achieve their priorities…


Three ways to move from CIO to ‘chief collaboration officer’

Collaboration simply means working with others to achieve or produce something. But it has become a bit of a buzzword. Senior executives tout notions of embracing collaboration by reducing functional silos… but the reality is: It’s hard work. Making collaboration work is tough. There are a heap of things that get in the way — our existing workload, time and geographical barriers, hierarchy, bureaucracy and protocol, varying permissions, email burden, communication delays, and so on…


Established Companies, Get Ready for the Collaborative Economy

No wonder big brands want in on the action: the growth of the collaborative economy promises to disrupt the conventional marketplace, as customers buy from one another — instead of from them. But for those companies, engaging with this nascent market must go beyond latching onto a few hot collaborative startups by buying them or partnering with them. Established companies must grasp the core drivers behind this new economy, and understand how those drivers fit into their already established models. These core drivers are:…


Collaboration apps market growing

“The popularity of the ‘bring your own device’ trend in the enterprise environment, along with the rapid penetration of smartphones and tablets, has brought enterprise mobile collaboration into a new stage in Asia-Pacific,” said Shuishan Lu, a Frost & Sullivan research analyst on information and communication technologies. “These mobile collaboration applications are quickly becoming a key component in enterprise UC deployment instead of being merely an add-on to desktop-based systems.”…


Transatlantic collaboration, innovation lead to green energy opportunities

The demand for green goods and services in the UK is growing faster than the general economy; in 2012-13, the green economy was valued globally at around $5.7 trillion (£3.4 trillion), having grown 3.8% over the previous year, despite the global economic slowdown. This market is projected to grow by around 4% for the next four years, with the British portion of the market slightly ahead, at 5-6%. In the natural resources sector alone, estimates of commercial opportunities related to environmental sustainability range from $2.1 – $6.3 trillion by 2050…


Opinion: Innovation and collaboration can help plug Montreal’s brain drain

For a city to thrive in this 21st century, it has to make the fullest use of its resources. One of Montreal’s greatest strengths is the rich pool of educated young people its employers can draw upon to help ensure a solid future. We are second only to Boston in terms of North American cities with the highest ratio of university students to residents. But our “University City” faces a major threat in our competitive global economy when it loses young people once they graduate and are lured to leading centres of innovation…


Collaboration builds communities that care

Since its inception in 2008 the Communities that Care (CTC) program in Williams Lake and Anahim Lake has attempted to make a difference in the lives of children. “We still have many challenges but lots of things have changed,” said Anne Burrill, manager of social development for the city and CTC board member. Speaking during a meeting of community leaders hosted by the CTC Friday at the Central Cariboo Arts Society, Burrill said the community is different now than it was five years ago. In 2008 the community had a problem with youth involved in violence and pursued the CTC program as a possible solution, Burrill said…


Financial Networks Increase Collaboration To Improve Information Security

Last Friday, MasterCard and Visa announced a new cross-industry consortium of banks, credit unions, retailers and industry trade groups that will work together to improve the security of the existing payment system. This still unnamed group will initially focus on introducing and driving adoption of EMV chip technology, which is already widely used in Europe and Asia, on credit and debit cards in the U.S. The forming of the consortium and its emerging agenda may be seen as an initiative by the world’s two largest payment networks to improve security in response to the increasing number of incidents of financial transaction data breaches, particularly at retailers, before additional requirements are imposed upon them by regulators…


…and now for something completely different…

 What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun?

My friend June Thunderstorm and I once spent a half an hour sitting in a meadow by a mountain lake, watching an inchworm dangle from the top of a stalk of grass, twist about in every possible direction, and then leap to the next stalk and do the same thing. And so it proceeded, in a vast circle, with what must have been a vast expenditure of energy, for what seemed like absolutely no reason at all.  “All animals play,” June had once said to me. “Even ants.” She’d spent many years working as a professional gardener and had plenty of incidents like this to observe and ponder. “Look,” she said, with an air of modest triumph. “See what I mean?”…


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Collaboration vs Cooperation: is the proposition real?

Writing about collaboration, educating people through workshops, strategic planning sessions and so on inevitably creates opportunities for learning new things and, perhaps more importantly, thinking about new challenges and questions posed by clients and audiences.  One of the interesting questions I am often asked is how collaboration differs from cooperation.  More specifically, there are times when dialogue emerges indicating how cooperation is in fact a better way to go than collaboration, etc.

Some tend to place more value on cooperation. ROADMENDER Recommends further reading  the piece by Harold Jarche :

Some tend to place more value on cooperation. ROADMENDER Recommends further reading the piece by Harold Jarche :

I would not go so far as to say that there’s ever a real debate, but I will acknowledge that, while discussion does tend to emerge, it doesn’t often really develop or flourish.  In part, a lot of this is an exercise in unexamined trend seeking.  It is really hard to think about the difference between concepts such these two and truly not stumble upon the simple fact that neither concept has the degree of maturity required to yield a reliable starting point.

While a lot has been said about both these concepts, we do not have the necessary data to see which kind of collaborations and cooperatives work and which do not.  It is highly likely that either kind works and also has its share of failures.  But, that is not sufficient for a serious comparative analysis.  I personally think we are not talking seriously about one overriding proposition.  However, I do think that collaboration has not yet been utilised to its full capacity.  Until it is, looking for another new thing will be a part and parcel of management innovation.

Having said that, I prefer collaboration for a number of reasons: one being the clear advantage in its potential for innovation, which stems from creative tension.  Another feature of collaboration which is not the case with co-operation is that it changes the practitioner and the enterprise.  I believe that if collaboration does not change you, then you are not collaborating.  The change comes from the disruptive interaction that occurs when partners challenge our stand, values and beliefs, not because they want to better us but because of the process of understanding something comes only through inquiry.  Questioning is the first step to “dare to know” which Immanuel Kant famously used as the catch phrase of the age of enlightenment.  Collaboration does not come about without some kind of organisational enlightenment.  Implicit in this is the role of a rational and strategic approach that is supported by evidence, rather than some feel-good temporary gimmick.

..but then...story is not as simple as we hoped for...ROADMENDER Recommends this piece by Shawn Callahan []

..but then…story is not as simple as we hoped for…ROADMENDER Recommends this piece by Shawn Callahan []

Another telling sign in favour of collaboration is that it is much more suitable for freelancers, small businesses and people who come from a very different level of capacity.  Collaboration is a more open process as it allows for less of a ‘moral’ duty factor to dictate how two enterprises interact, in favour of existing market forces.  People do like to do things they feel they have control over, which is not as implied in the co-operation process.  If one looks at the number of collaborations today in what Rolf Jensen called ‘the dream society’ (the art world, design, fashion, entertainment industries, etc.), then it is very clear that collaboration appeals to creatives and knowledge workers.  This is a very important indicator of the collaborative power to transform enterprises and individuals while allowing them creative control.

Finally, it is important to reflect on many other areas of collaborative and co-operative practices from a governance, leadership and risk-management perspective.  It is within these confines that the true test lies.  While both practices aim to amplify the capacities of two or more entities, the net benefit may vary significantly, largely due to the capacity of each enterprise to adopt one or another approach.  Systematic requirements of collaboration and co-operation differ and the difference can become critical to the final outcome.


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Collaboration Instead of Litigation: Nokia Takes the High Road During Settlement Negotiations with HTC for Patent Infringement Disputes

The idea of collaborative competition is not entirely new but the magnitude of such behaviour is starting to become a major factor in the market.  Companies are realising that litigation resulting from fierce competition in fact leaves all parties more vulnerable.  This blog post submitted by Rana Wahdan explains the details behind this collaboration.  READ ON…


7 Habits of Social Collaboration

Stop being polite and other ways to create a truly collaborative team

Simon T. Bailey says that “C-level executives tell me all the time, “we have the best-of-breed experts in their fields. Knockdown experts. But they cannot form themselves into a team.” This is an almost universal sentiment I too hear in my daily interactions.  Good things do not come easy. Getting people to collaborate is no different from any other form of cultural engineering. As a rule of thumb I think that applying Hans Kelsen’s ‘normative power of facticity’ can serve as a starting point for unlocking the collaborative instinct. Simon T Baily, CEO of Brilliance Institute, offers more advice which is based on his broad experience.  READ ON…


Mayor: Collaboration key to city’s future

City leaders across the globe increasingly reflect on a famous remark by the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro who eloquently observed that city leadership is not judged by how well it does things but how well it prepares its city for the future.  This story by Matthew Kent is about Chillicothe Mayor Jack Everson who puts collaboration squarely at the centre of his city’s potential for economic development. I have written at some length on what I have termed the collaborative city and hope that more city leaders globally recognise the driving force of collaboration.  READ ON…


The disruptive power of collaboration: An interview with Clay Shirky

My last post was titled Collaboration – the mother of all disruption.  A day later, I found this little gem on the McKinsey & Company website; an interview with Clay Chirky, a New York University professor famous as a consultant and analyst of the internet and social media.  Some know him for his famous phrase ‘the Internet runs on love’.  I personally am interested in his work in the area of crowdsourcing and collaboration.  READ ON…


Collaboration Is Risky. Now, Get On With It.

This post on SAP Business Innovation by Whitney Johnson (which originally appeared on Harvard Business Review) captures some critical lessons collaborating partners and strategists should take note of. While the author points to some deceptively simple, common sense principles, the depth of their importance in collaboration is well crafted.  READ ON…



Monty-Python-l (2)

…and now for something completely different…


5 Ways To Reframe Your Failures

“If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.” Thomas Watson Jr.

As children, we are naturally inquisitive, curious, eager, and willing to try new things. When they don’t work out we are quick to move on and try something else. We don’t waste time or emotions worrying about what didn’t work, we simply move on to trying something else…


Nikhil Arora: Transparent Is the New Clever

In this high-energy talk, Back to the Roots co-founder Nikhil Arora shares his unconventional methods for launching his company from a college experiment to a fully functioning social enterprise. Arora shares how candid transparency (and pictures of ugly fungi) helped his company’s mushroom growing kits become a hit among children and on Facebook…


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Collaboration: the mother of all disruptions

One thing that I’ve noticed recently is the increased chatter about collaboration from various corners of governments when they talk about delivering services in partnership with the NFP sector. I am not alone. This is something many notice and discuss discreetly.  A proper, open conversation has not fully matured, which I think is in part driven by self-preservation.  One overarching theme of the current collaboration potential is that it is not very clear what is meant by it and, perhaps more importantly, there are growing fears that some organisations may see this as indirect management of the NFP.

I think this worries anyone who finds themselves unprepared.  What is very obvious is that no one is clear on what models of collaboration governance are available or should be adopted.  I also see a major flaw in the idea behind the government’s move to reward collaborations without first having a clear understanding of what risk measures they have; awarding grants with a lack evidence on what the return on investment will be from some of these so called collaborations.  Naturally, collaboration is a business driver and it should be utilised, but it can be a major risk when any critical systematic issues are not cleared up.  The government should be focusing on some form of support specifically designed for the collaboratives it funds.  While the case for input is clear, i.e. governments can save money by funding collaboratives to deliver services to the community, what level of responsibility is it prepared to accept when collaboratives fail to deliver?  Failures are a common occurrence given that collaboratives cannot yet provide a mature form of service delivery. Collaborations can also be very disruptive and are not easy to manage when resources are scarce.

Evaluation of the outcomes and impacts will also be difficult for the government as it is poorly equipped to work out what kind of collaborative works and is worth investing in, and what kind is not.  Governments have in the past managed the governance and administrative practices of funded bodies, which has not been difficult given the maturity of organisational governance as a field.  Collaborative governance is not that simple.  So there is a risk, a very clear risk, that funding could be channelled to, for example, collaboratives with visible outcomes but poor governance models.  As paradoxical as it may seem, in the short term it would be probable to get good service outcomes, however these may not be long lasting as governance issues tend to emerge slowly.

The government’s shift in its funding approach is no different than any other market disruption.  While the government may not be too perturbed by its intention to improve its balance sheet, and in fact may be reacting prudently to major business drivers, there is no clear picture emerging on the philosophical underpinnings of this approach.  What I am trying to detect is how consistent collaboration is as a way of operating across all government.  At the moment the most that is discernible is only a fraction of what collaboration is; a way of working together.  Past that point most is left to the imagination.  That lack of consistency in understanding of collaboration theory, practice, strategy, execution and policy will over time become markedly visible.

While, with my educator’s hat on, I would naturally be the first to advocate for collaboration when I am wearing my strategist’s hat, I am also very critical of the way collaboration is implemented. Changing the ‘red tape’ process (either reducing it or otherwise) comes with a risk of diminished returns on investment.  When that investment comes in the form of a not fully mature process, then there should be no surprises when the process comes under scrutiny.  Collaboration is here to stay, and doing it poorly is not an option.

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Collaboration, Not Competition: A Winning Small Business Strategy

...small business can benefit from collaboration strategy more than traditional competition....

…small business can benefit from collaboration strategy more than traditional competition….

No matter how many times it’s repeated, it is worth doing so again for the simple reason that the message that collaboration is ‘good for you, your business and your life’ should be more of a mantra until we start to see the fruits of all the hard work.  This piece by Nicole Fallon focuses on collaboration and small business and is a good opening for this week’s selection of recommended reading.  As the author points out, small business owners sometimes can feel like it is “dog eat dog” out there; I wonder if we could aim to make it “dog feed dog”.  READ ON…


The Parts We Play: Building Trust, Collaboration & Partnerships

Andrew Armour attempts to disentangle the complex web of relationships, partnerships and collaboration that all cross paths at the inevitable link – ‘trust building‘.  I particularly appreciate the author’s effort in making the concept of trust conceptualised as a practice that goes beyond conventional attitudes.  READ ON…



It is unavoidable to talk about collaboration without talking about teams.  The relationship between the two is instinctive.  While a lot has been said about teams over the decades, the changing context poses new challenges in how teams can be built to last for the duration of the necessary work or project.  Dr Janice Presser, the CEO of The Gabriel Institute and a guest blogger on ROADMENDER, offers what I would consider clearly one of the best approaches to ‘teamcrafting’.  Dr Presser’s Teamability is brilliant and highly recommended.  READ ON…

"When social nodes are coherent, they are free of noise and distortion"  - @Dr Janice

“When social nodes are coherent, they are free of noise and distortion” – @Dr Janice


Collaboration Isn’t Just for Knowledge Workers

Every topic that gains momentum, such as collaboration in the context of work and business, risks creating gaps in its audience.  One of those instances is the way the collaboration discourse has at times seemed non-inclusive.  As Jed Cawthorne from BMO Financial Group eloquently explains, there are many dimensions of collaboration that are equally suited to all workers.  This should be self-evident but may be equally overlooked for a variety of reasons.  Among a range of points which the author shares with a number of other collaboration thinkers, one that tells a lot about good understanding of collaboration is the idea that “collaboration is NOT information sharing”.  READ ON…


The Nuances of Collaboration

Talking about teams and collaboration is also a nice introduction to some less explored areas of collaboration such as politics and hierarchies.  While these factors are true topics in their own right (and which I will return to later) I thought this piece by Kyla Crisostomo should be read and shared.  The author looks at the above mentioned factors through a study of what is a part of American culture and tradition: quilting.  The fusion of art, culture and business is increasingly revealing layers of understanding of collaboration.  This is one such an example.  READ ON…


Three tiers of collaboration. Written by James Robertson.

Three tiers of collaboration. Written by James Robertson.

IBM, Thiess partner on Big Data collaboration

It should not surprise anyone that big data can be a critical element of any kind of collaboration.  While realistically more suited for mega scale collaborations, big data is becoming adaptable to all forms of collaboration.  One of the first blogs on ROADMENDER was about big data.  This piece by Peter Dinham explains how better big data can improve operational efficiency of Thiess’ Mining haul trucks and excavators.  READ ON…


…and now for something completely different…

Mr Allen Klein, the jollytologist

Mr Allen Klein,
the jollytologist


Allen Klein – Jollytologist and Best-Selling Author

Have you ever seriously considered the importance of humour and play in your working life?  A man once described by comedian Jerry Lewis as “a noble and vital force watching over the human condition” certainly is the right introduction of the topic. Allen Klein, a ‘jollytologist’ is dead serious about humour and its benefits; and the serious people listen to him and laugh with him. READ ON…


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How do you know if collaboration is working?

Sometimes collaboration feels right despite the lack of evidence at hand.  At other times, the data available suggests a great story of collaboration but the satisfaction, outcome and impacts we aim for are muted.  In either case, it is possible to fall into drawing fast conclusions and even faster decisions.

Fast decisions may lead many to give up on collaboration or even worse, pretend it never was going to work anyway.  So, how can you tell if collaboration is working well? What are the cues that can be detected on time and acted on smartly? One of our favourite old time ‘friends’ is the tool we call KPIs.  But, does collaboration work well purely because we have KPIs.  Yes and no.  KPIs are necessary, but also can be a puzzle when you are attempting to build a collaboration culture.  Collaboration is far from being a discipline that has been tried and tested to the extent that other parts of business practices are – for the time being.  However, with the increasing regard of collaboration as a business driver, there is no doubt that it too will become easier with time.

'conventional wisdom' guides a lot of business strategy

‘conventional wisdom’ guides a lot of business strategy

A very common scenario with many organisations when it comes to deploying collaboration is an attitude where failure at the first or second attempt tends to discourage management from persevering.  In fact collaboration as a disruptive force is very likely to divide management and in most cases be a strong motivation to return to the status quo, or to put is more precisely; to ‘what we know best’.  That is a natural reaction. But it should not necessarily be a strategic reaction! In my experience, I find that collaboration should not be embarked upon as a result of drivers we do not fully understand.  I know that in some sectors, NGOs, Not-for-profits, some sections of government and in some limited areas of the private sector, collaboration has started to be primarily a way of surviving funding cuts or income losses.  That is a legitimate driver and can in fact be sufficient to build a collaborative instinct in any enterprise.  Having said that, in this case a large chunk of understanding what collaboration could be is missing.

Firstly, collaboration as a ‘measure’ to be undertaken to combat financial constraints is not going to produce change that organisations need in order to think more competitively.  Collaboration is emerging as a way of operating, regardless of what the external circumstances may be from one financial year to the next.  I am talking about a shift in value creation that in itself fosters collaboration as a value which translates into the goods and services we produce or consume.  Services and products that are produced without collaboration as an ingredient are handicapped stories which increasingly fail to impress the market.  After all, a century of marketing expertise tells us that humans do not buy things just for the utility.

Collaboration is akin to a system of values that transcend any one enterprise as such.  It is not a new business fad, trend, strategy, tool etc.  It is sociological shift that is way more influential than one organisation can resist or ignore – not for long anyway. It is when we take those factors into account that a possible answer to the question I posed at the start becomes clear.  Collaboration is first and foremost a culture, which becomes explicit in the way we operate.  As with any aspect of culture, we know that some things are easy to detect and some take time to be measured.  This is where intuition, imagination and creativity play a larger role.  My first advice to people who want to know if collaboration is working is to test their intuition, without ignoring the available data.  As a rule of thumb, it is always good to ask ourselves the following question at regular intervals during the collaboration: Would I do this again with the same partner/s after this project is over?  Aligning your instincts and thinking before any action takes place can be very useful guide.  Adding KPIs further makes the collaboration a mature process as well.


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‘Collaboration is the new business driver’,

Chris Kelsey asks “could co-operatives and mutuals offer alternative business models that are fairer, more sustainable and deliver lasting improvement in the economic and social well-being?” I’m not sure if in reality we can say there is more choice if we take a longer term view.  Perhaps there’s some room to manipulate the circumstances, but without a shred of doubt I believe that within 2 decades we’ll be looking back at the period post GFC and wondering why it took us so long to act on clear potential and placing collaboration on centre stage.  READ ON…


Collaboration helps with funding loss

I am always amazed to see just how creative, driven and entrepreneurial enterprises can be when they find themselves pushed against the wall as a result of financial strain.  Ashley Bergner writes a little piece that talks precisely about that.  The author makes a point about how some results are only possible when entities (in this case a local government) unlock potential previously not considered within their grasp. Now, if collaboration can help when funding losses hit, does that not make an even stronger argument that collaboration is well suited for business growth?  READ ON…


The Future of Collaboration Lies in Human Resources’ Hands

Mention the word collaboration and you can be sure that most people wouldn’t be surprised. The term is so familiar and to many it has become just another byword.  It is only when we attempt to explain some contextual factors that people start to wonder about the power of collaboration.  Luis Suarez wrote this elegant analysis of collaboration as practice and poses a question (or perhaps more controversially, asserts a point) that HR professionals are not really up with the idea.  As a consequence we still see persistent lack of serious dedication to collaboration as it seems to imply that competition is the polar opposite to collaboration.  READ ON…


Chart: Collaboration by innovation-active businesses within Australia, by type of organisation collaborated with, 2008–09. Source:

Chart: Collaboration by innovation-active businesses within Australia, by type of organisation collaborated with, 2008–09. Source:

OPINION: Collaboration in innovation the way ahead

ROADMENDER has consistently promoted one exciting feature of collaborative practice; the potential for innovation.  This ‘to the point’ piece by Christina Gerakiteys, the creative director at Ideation At Work, make the case that collaboration is very soundly linked with creativity and innovation.  READ ON…


How to collaborate and partner with other sectors as a small charity

Becky Slack wrote this piece for The Guardian where she neatly explains several features of collaborative practice.  Ms Slack makes the now well noticed point that collaboration has recently been seen as a saviour of the ‘voluntary sector’.  That indeed is one of the areas where collaboration has gained more urgency; the argument that collaboration is an open option, and not just to large charities.  In fact, I do believe that small not for profits are in a better position to gain from innovative collaborations that large organisations may not be able to achieve.  READ ON…


When You’re Preparing for a Task, Say “You Can Do It,” not “I Can Do It”

And now, something completely different.  Andrew O’Connell shares this valuable lesson for the perennial students amongst us.  Apparently, “by distancing us from ourselves, the use of the second and third person in internal monologues enables us to better regulate our emotions”, something that may be useful to some.  A little bit of personal insight when we collaborate can’t hurt.  READ ON…


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The House of Collaboration

“Politeness is the poison of collaboration.” – Edwin Land

Is collaboration reducible to leadership? For some, this is a question with an obvious answer. For me, it is not the pursuit of the perfect answer, but rather the question itself that deserves some discussion. This is necessary for one major reason; there’s a pervasive belief that everything can be explained in elevator pitch mode. I disagree. After all, there is something about our capacity for language that has evolved; and not only so that we can write poetry. Ideas are sometimes best expressed when they are not pruned back to basic catch phrases. In fact, ideas are most capable of inspiring action when they are rich with detail. So, how relevant is the notion that perhaps some may simply be inclined to think that leadership is the principal driver of collaboration, and the rest is simple action?

Social Leadership Australia's 'collaboration diagram'

Social Leadership Australia’s ‘collaboration diagram’

Firstly, I do think that every collaboration strategist knows that leadership is vital for every strategy, so it goes without saying that collaboration must account for a strong leadership component. Aside from that though, the risk of oversimplifying things by focusing on leadership as the “it’ factor cannot be overstated.

I recently spoke to a prominent politician, who seems to prescribe to the idea that collaboration is simply about leadership. In her experience, a laissez-faire approach to collaboration seems implicit. She may be right. I am not convinced. My question is not about whether leadership matters, but does it make sense to ignore the fact that leadership is nowhere near enough to make collaboration work? I also wonder to what extent leadership can be a code for one’s reluctance to do the hard yards of analysis and preparation that goes into collaboration at the very start. Australian governments, not unlike others across the globe, have indicated that collaboration is necessary across sectors. The same is the case with business and community sectors. It is hard to imagine an area that would not yield better return on investment through collaboration. However, decades old and stagnant management practices seem to have become conventional wisdom; something a surprisingly small number of managers are willing to challenge. Some issues in relation to the adoption of new practice have been discussed by various bodies. An example I recommend is Social Leadership Australia’s own analysis.

Reflecting on my conversation with the politician, I realised that the instinctive reference to leadership is not only unique when it comes to collaboration. Many people of influence tend to evoke leadership as the answer for anything and everything. Digging deeper I start to wonder if in actual fact leadership has become safe ground for the complex and contested areas of enterprise functioning. It’s a bit along the lines of; when it doubt, focus on leadership.

Leadership: critical but not exclusive part of good collaboration

Leadership: critical but not exclusive part of good collaboration

But, are we not picking up on the cues around us? Customers, consumers and stakeholders alike are now assuming that enterprises listen to them. Some respond; some try to. Overall, the market has been disrupted enough so that enterprises who lean towards old tools really stand no realistic chance of being relevant. The ability to solve problems, which is really what sits behind every resilient enterprise, is directly linked to its being disciplined in the way it understands and adopts effective strategies. This is far from indicating that collaboration is a “must do every time” strategy. However, in order to be able to demonstrate authentic engagement with a customer base and stakeholders, collaboration is a ‘must understand’ strategy. After all, it is poor form to defer all capacities to the leadership corner. Owning up to our role in any enterprise means meeting leadership half-way. If collaboration is to emerge as a potential asset; then the sense of ownership needs to be based on a deeper understanding of what collaboration is, and what leadership is not.


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Who Should be Your Chief Collaboration Officer?

The idea of collaboration being a fully-fledged discipline, not unlike HR, Marketing, ICT, etc., is still not clear to most business leaders and managers.  Instead, as I have pointed out numerous times on ROADMENDER, the assumption is that every manager or leader should simply know that stuff.  Be that as it may, collaboration in the 21st century, an era when business is dealing with ever more complexity, is something that requires far more attention.  Morten T. Hansen and Scott Tapp return to the topic of collaboration in this piece that makes a few suggestions that can go a long way towards a change of attitude.  Both well regarded and respected specialists in the areas of collaboration came to my attention years ago; specifically Morten T Hansen who has lucidly spoken about the collaboration premium.  READ ON…


8 Tips For Collaborative Leadership

In light of the above argument, for those in a leadership role this straight to the point Forbes article by Carol Kinsey Goman is as good a start as one would hope for.  While simple things such as the importance of building vision and having a collaborative strategy that is built on the strengths of people may sound logical, a combination of all these tips make a pretty solid base for collaborative leadership. READ ON…


Pre-competitive collaboration could be key to solving water risks in Kenya

No matter how often we hear that collaboration is good for competition rather than being something that weakens it, the message needs to be repeated.  There are many reasons for collaboration, as is currently being evidenced by a growing number of businesses, governments and communities globally; particularly when dealing with complex problems such as the supply of clean water.  In this great piece by Flemmich Webb published in The Guardian we can see how a range of partners worked together to solve a chronic problem in Nairobi.  READ ON…


Why True Collaboration is Rare

Collaboration is not meant to be easy, nor is it meant to be a cure all solution.  When pursued with strategic discipline and skill it does work better than most alternatives, however, it is not easy and this analysis by Lynn Serafinn provides further insight into the issues every collaboration practitioner needs to know.  READ ON…


The Power of Unintentional Collaboration

This is an interesting piece.  I have never heard a question that A/Prof Gerald C. Kane was unable, or even more so, needed to think about how to answer.  As A/Prof Kane explains, even a simple question such as What is the difference between communication and collaboration?, can lead to discovery or an insight of a kind.  In this case A/Prof Kane suggests that social media ‘blurs the line separating communication and collaboration’. This piece may be particularly important to those organisations that rely heavily on a social media strategy and are yet to develop a strategy for collaboration.  READ ON…


The Enterprise Collaboration Tipping Point

Collaborative practice is constantly evolving and we need to understand that the very meaning of collaboration is defined in a large part by its context.  This, in part, seems to be the message that Oscar Berg maintains in this CMS Wire piece.  The author makes a very compelling point in terms of the emergence, and increased traction, of the digital workplace.  The workforce which is also more distributed and no longer can rely on internal collaboration tools but are inevitably dependent on external factors.  Virtual collaboration may, as the author points out, be a new norm.  READ ON…


Knowledge Creation and Social Collaboration in the Digital Workplace

If the above piece was not enough, here is another in depth article by marketing executive Marc Jadoul who provides a range of angles that explore how social collaboration in digital workplaces is in fact the way to create knowledge.  Marc opens the article with a quote by Andrew Carnegie (1919) “The only irreplaceable capital an organization possesses is the knowledge and ability of its people.  The productivity of that capital depends on how effectively people share their competence with those who can use it.” This insight almost a century ago is now more relevant than ever.  READ ON…

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Don’t Throw the Virtual Baby Out With the Virtual Bath Water!, Guest Blog By Dr. Janice Presser

In an era of ever-expanding virtual teamwork, some companies (Yahoo, Best Buy, Bank of America and others) seem to have taken a Luddite’s view of the digitally-connected world. They’re smart people, so why are they bucking the future?

First, some equate ‘virtual worker’ with ‘non-contributor’. Not so! The quality of someone’s contributions to a team effort can’t be judged by geolocation. Is anyone looking at the organization as a living entity, and asking which team members are instrumental in maintaining processes, relationships, and ‘team spirit’?

Second, a blunt ‘work in the office or find a new job’ message assumes that ‘good’ employees will return to the office while ‘bad’ employees won’t. Whether they have more good or bad employees isn’t the question. It’s equally likely that non-contributors will return to the office rather than seek out new opportunities where they might be more closely managed. It’s also likely they’ll lose people who are quite comfortable and highly productive when working virtually.

Third, there’s usually a downside to making statistical, tactical decisions instead of informed strategic ones. Consider the wisdom of Solomon when presented with the challenge of delivering justice to two mothers who were claiming the same child as their own: When he offered to cut the child in two and give half to each mother, one of the contestants saw the outcome as thoroughly without merit in the larger sense.  Solomon’s logic worked.

Certainly, there are problems with virtual teaming. In a research survey conducted by Siemens, only 44% of the respondents said that virtual teaming could be as productive as face to face. However, plenty of the same problems manifest in 100% collocated teams! The strategic solution will come from a new and better understanding of how people ‘team’ together to achieve common goals, and that’s the unique form of information that Teamability® provides.

So keep the baby, but change the bath water.  Better communications, better performance management, and better team performance from ALL people is possible – and profitable – in both physical and virtual workplaces. When the invisible bonds between people’s hearts and minds are strong, they will get the job done, and done well. You don’t have to worry about where they are!

For more on virtual teaming, see this.


Dr. Janice Presser is CEO of The Gabriel Institute and architect of the underlying technology that powers Teamability®. She is a pioneer in Team Analysis and a recognized thought leader in qualitative assessment and human infrastructure management concepts. Her latest book is the conversational @DrJanice: Thoughts & Tweets on Leadership, Teamwork & Teamability®. Her next book will be an exploration of the theoretical and physical foundations of teaming and their profound impact on the structure, development, and leadership of teams.




How Collaboration Is a Solution

The main principle behind ROADMENDER is a conviction that the practice of collaboration has reached a point where it has become a discipline increasingly playing a crucial part in the MO of any mature enterprise.  In this blog, Karin Volo presents a neat argument which no doubt will advance the idea of collaboration thinking and process.  As is often repeated by a growing number of business analysts, collaboration is the new competition.  Ms Volo also makes that point almost poetically by her opening argument; “Competition is the old business mindset. Collaboration is taking over”.  READ ON…



Time to get serious about collaboration tools

A few years ago cloud technology was the domain of ICT professionals and most organisations were not quite sure about it, believing that the expensive IT infrastructure they were holding on to was more ‘real’.  Today, it is somewhat similar with many when it comes to understanding the inevitable march of collaboration as the guiding norm in the way we produce value.  This piece really makes it simple for all to understand that collaboration, and also the tools that enable the many facets of its practice, should be taken seriously if an enterprise is intent on being relevant in near future.  READ ON…


London eyes collaboration on pension fund investments

Mark Cobley writes about the way London councils seek to solve one of their challenges through collaboration.  In this instance, the collaboration has brought together a number of London borough councils as a type of collective investment vehicle that allows for flexible investment without taking away key features of each council’s ‘sovereignty’ and is not a legal merger as such.  These kinds of options may not be entirely new in terms of group investment.  A notable feature is the attitude towards collaborative solutions which also take into account legal governance models that work for relatively large number of entities. READ ON…


How Intuit Innovates by Challenging Itself

I really liked this piece by Hal Gregesen from HBR Blog.  Gregersen, the Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank Chaired Professor of Innovation and Leadership at INSEAD, shares the insights he and his colleague Prof Clayton Christensen uncovered after interviewing a number of people about how creative and successful people frame questions; questions that can at times unlock the best path to an innovative solution. One of the people they spoke to was Brad Smith, the CEO of Intuit.  Without revealing too much, here is one of the Smith’s quotes which is at the heart of his approach; “My personal belief is people want to be a part of something greater than themselves. They want to leave a mark. They want to put a dent in the universe. They want to be remembered”.  I think this is a must-read piece.  READ ON…


Make Conflict Collaborative, Not Combative

At the risk of promoting collaboration as some sort of a cure for all ills of a company or enterprise of any kind, this short and sweet management tip taken from “Conflict Strategies for Nice People” by Liane Davey is nevertheless pertinent.  READ ON…


Why Co-Creation Is the Future for All of Us

I didn’t know that almost 60% of the 150 most important economic entities in the world are companies, not countries! This point is shared by Stephanie Schmidt, Managing Director at Ashoka Europe, in this piece published in Forbes, which considers how co-creation may offer a range of solutions, not just for commercial but equally for social and cultural purposes.  The article is a good exploration of how CSR and philanthropy can actually be much stronger strategies for both commercially profit oriented enterprises and the social enterprise sector as a whole.  READ ON…


The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies 2013

2014 is a new year, but there’s still time to reflect on 2013.  The staff at Fast Company have compiled a list of the Most Innovative Companies, which provides an insight into the way some companies deal with the “Age of Flux”. It is indeed an interesting selection across disciplines, industries and countries. When looked at as a whole, the list reveals that innovation is a strategic practice worth perfecting.  READ ON…


The Big Lie of Strategic Planning

Roger L. Martin discusses strategy and reveals some of the very common and yet hard to avoid mistakes that strategists make.  Also explored are some all too familiar ‘comforts traps’READ ON…

[Please note, in order to access the complete article, you may need to sign up to Harvard Business Review.]

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Improve your collaborative skills and watch your career grow (2 of 2)

Late last year I wrote about skills that are the mainstay of any collaboration practitioner; an entrepreneurial approach and a good grasp of strategy.  Now I would like to expand and focus on another essential factor; the importance of resilience.

Resilience has become a somewhat trendy concept, a bit like many other well-known terms such as love, happiness, culture etc.  All open to endless interpretation.  However, unlike love, resilience has found its way onto the agenda of many governments, business and communities.  In part this is due to a growing body of research that demonstrates a clear link between the resilience of people and their ability to be part of a productive entity.  As Hara Estroff Marano, (Editor-at-Large of Psychology Today) once remarked: ‘Resilience may be an art, the ultimate art of living!’ According to CIPD (a professional body for HR and people development with over130 000 members internationally) resilience can be viewed as “successful adaptation to tasks in the face of disadvantage or highly adverse conditions”.

This version essentially sums up what most people would understand as generally true.  concept-resilience

So, why does resilience matter in the practice of collaboration?  In my experience, it has to do with the very nature of collaboration; that is, its high potential for disruptive processes and its demand for a disciplined approach to the execution of any project.  Producing results via collaboration is a bit like endurance sports.  One has to be in it for the long haul.  But that’s not to say that collaboration is not suited to ‘short and sweet’ projects.  On the contrary, it’s not about the length of a particular project but rather about the tenacity in building a collaboration culture as a unique feature of an organisational brand or operating system.  This means that organisations cannot have an ‘on/off’ switch to suit.  Once committed, organisations have to grasp the fact that collaboration only truly yields benefits when it becomes a systematic method of operating on a day-to-day basis.  This naturally requires energy and resilience to be able to deal with the inevitable disappointments that come with creating anything of serious value.  Collaboration is an emotional roller coaster ride where it is normal to experience anxiety associated with negotiations, excitement at the start of project, fears of project failure and many other emotions.  The actual skills each party brings need to be underpinned with the skills often associated with resilient performers.  In fact, as a recent study in the UK revealed, the overwhelming majority of HR executives believe that resilience will “determine their likelihood of being hired in five years’ time”.  In that same timeframe, I believe collaboration skills will also be part of the core competencies expected of each member of an enterprise.

The link between collaboration and resilience is firmly established however the full benefit of this combination of skills will depend on the vision, drive and determination of business leaders, as much as on the entrepreneurial spirit of each individual expecting to be part of future workforces.  The delicate balance between current practice and the pressure required to work in current environments under current conditions, together with the pressure to comprehend rapid changes in the ever changing nature of work is a complex task.  Collaborative practice is evolving and is increasingly becoming a central feature of technological design (think about the plethora of technological solutions already on offer as tools for a more productive workforce).  The ability to adapt, and more importantly adapt and grow, while maintaining a sense of composure is underway.  Enterprises that have invested heavily in infrastructure designed in times when collaboration was perhaps only a fleeting thought, are now challenged in many ways, including competition for resilient employees across all disciplines and industries.


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Top 5 Collaboration Quotes

For some reason we seem to love quotes.  So why not start this read with this list of quotes assembled by Sandra R Campbell on her blog.  My favourite by far is from Edwin Land, an inspiring and original man.  READ ON…



Human to Human (H2H) — Collaboration is the New Competition

A while back (July 2013) I made reference to collaboration being a form of new competition, a view that emerged a little earlier that year and struck a chord with me in my approach to collaboration.  Since then I have consistently made links to this view and continue to do so.  This piece by Tom Lowery, is a really well structured argument that makes it crystal clear that once people get over the overtly simplistic view of collaboration as being the domain of leaders and happy people who like teamwork, we see a glimpse of the nuanced bridge between philosophy, sociology and strategy.  READ ON…


Collaboration is key to data innovation

The importance of data in any enterprise is unquestionably one of the finest points of management.  And bad data, be it in respect to quality, relevance or usability, is impossible to ignore.  In this piece by Neil Crockett, CEO of the Connected Digital Economy Catapult, a national centre that aims to rapidly advance UK digital ideas to the market, explains why collaboration in this area is critical for success. It is interesting to note the parallels of this UK centric discussion with practice here in Australia.  READ ON…


What space taught Chris Hadfield about leadership

Several months ago I recorded the International Space Station (ISS) on my iPhone as it was crossing the sky above Brisbane.  While a regular event and free for all to enjoy, it is truly inspiring to watch this marvel of human collaboration.  Most literally, the ISS is a global collaboration between a number of countries (not just the USA and Russia).  The scientific research taking place is indisputably a product of collaboration in space.  A few weeks ago I read An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield (the mission chief during a 6 month period last year). This article by Joel Kranc on Hadfield’s leadership by caught my attention and I think it’s worth sharing.  READ ON…


Daft Punk and why collaboration works

I have stopped taking count of the number of times when I found a business person inspiring and learn that that person does not thank a management book for their success but rather knowledge gleaned from unexpected sources.  This is why I noticed this post by Patti Johnson who examines the way Daft Punk (duo, group or something else entirely) uses collaboration to produce music that is globally appealing. Regardless of one’s musical taste, it is worth looking into the workings of this outfit and finding ways to apply their approach collaboration into mainstream business.  The author also points out some very common misconceptions that are associated, at times completely unjustly, with collaboration.  READ ON…


Leaders at their best when they collaborate

And now something more close to home.  This piece from by Dr Brenda Jamnik published in the Queensland Times examines the link between modern leadership and collaboration.  Personally, I like the fact that the author makes a strong point about what I consider to be the perennial crisis many leaders suffer; fearing collaboration with competitors.  READ ON…

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In Search of a Collaboration Algorithm

[An algorithm is a sequence of computational steps that transform input into output.] *

For some time now I have been convinced that the future of sustainable social and economic enterprise will be in small entities that are better connected, rather than large entities who are rich in structures and infrastructure. Rightly or wrongly, I believe that the focus will be on quality and resilience of those connections which in a large part could be developed algorithmically. At this point this may seem a bit outré, however we are going to witness new forms of organisations (companies, governing bodies, social groups and communities) that, while in the present may seem radically different, in the very near future will be entirely natural; almost in the way that democracy is normal and the feudal system of the middle ages is not.

It is in this context that the collaboration culture makes sense: i.e. its pervasiveness. I have already hinted at this in one of my earlier blogs, a two-part post on collaborative cities. However a recent Forbes article about Amazon’s current focus on a predictive shopping strategy, or as they call it ‘anticipatory package shipping’, had me thinking more about the broader development of a collaboration algorithm and its omnipresence. This is all critical for a number of reasons that go beyond a focus on collaboration; i.e. the future of jobs, and the future of economic and social life as we know it.

Binary Background


For now I will stay focused on my topic; is a collaboration algorithm something that should be pursued more ambitiously? And, if so, what would it look like and could it further enhance collaboration and give it a competitive advantage? And could then an algorithm applied in a collaboration setting also enhance the already known advantages it brings to innovation?

The role of algorithms in some areas such as policing has been well documented and discussed. Policing programs such as Crush [Criminal Reduction Utilising Statistical History] have been both praised and criticised. However, praise for its outcomes in reducing crime have left many unimpressed as they saw science fiction like that shown in the film “Minority Report” arrive much too fast to allow us to adapt. Some have pointed to the risks associated with the obsession with algorithms as a tool that can predict human behaviour. As one critic pointed out many years ago; “In cases of uncertainty, humans will tend to anchor on the first substantial piece of information they get and any new information that contradicts this initial idea is given less attention than it merits. This is the theory of anchoring bias.”  While the debate about the use of algorithms in predicting human behaviour is not really a debate for many, it is clear that new technologies are certainly allowing it to be considered as a serious tool with massive potential.

One area that I feel could to some extent be enhanced is the way we recognise potential for collaboration and the way we can better drive multiple collaborations across a range of industries. Algorithms are a powerful tool when the level of input data is high. This is largely a problem at present as collaborations are not well documented. The documentation of collaboration is paramount and the old adage of ‘you can’t manage what you don’t measure’ certainly applies here.  But, for the sake of argument, let’s think about what collaboration would look like if we collected and shared data? One notion is that data collection through collaboration could assist in reaching innovative solutions that normally take a long time to become apparent. We could further explore this by examining how the existing method of collaborative filtering works. Collaborative filtering has been described as ‘the lifeblood of the social web’ because its ‘mechanism is used to filter large amounts of information by spreading the process of filtering among a large group of people’**. Amazon and iTunes are among the well-known users of this method which helps them in making recommendations to customers.

One does not have to be a creative specialist to imagine the many potential uses of algorithms in collaboration, provided that an enterprise has a good collaboration strategy, governance and culture in place. These factors are in fact the basis on which data collection would rest as the first step towards building an algorithm that would enhance the collaboration process. I can recall some examples in long term collaborative projects that I designed and managed where it would have been helpful if there was an algorithm at hand. Having said that, an algorithm would not replace the necessity for other features of collaboration such as relationship building, but it would alter it to be based on more strategic focus in the process of collaboration.

Another possibility for a collaboration algorithm would be the potential for it to significantly assist in managing any risk associated with collaboration. Adjusting to emerging or disruptive trends would be much easier if an algorithm was in regular usage among collaboration practitioners. It is important that we do not confuse data collection and sharing in collaboration with algorithms. A good algorithm that focuses on collaboration as a business strategy would ultimately depend on the overall business model. In my view this reveals one thing; are we not a bit stubborn in neglecting the inevitable changes that algorithms bring?

*Cormen, Leiserson, and Rivest



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Demonstrating the Business Value of Social Collaboration

This piece by Christian Buckley, Director of Product Evangelism at Metalogix, is valuable and well worthy of consideration by strategists and business leaders as they attempt to make critical decisions in relation to the right path for collaboration.  As the author points out, for social collaboration to work there “must be some kind of connection to business processes”.  Most managers would naturally understand this but the process of making the analysis and ensuring that the decision is right for the specific enterprise is slightly more complicated because collaboration is not as simple as it may often seem.  READ ON…


What are your company’s barriers to collaboration? [infographic]


House approves legislation encouraging collaboration among communities to boost efficiency

Encouraging communities to collaborate is one thing.  Making collaboration a strategy for efficiency within these groups may be an entirely different one, as Richie Davis explains in this great piece that looks at the mechanisms of collaboration between towns and cities.  The article caught my attention because it delves into the delegated and legislated powers which form a basis for collaboration between different jurisdictions.  READ ON…


The Spectator’s View: Collaboration key in hospital flood crisis

Most surveys of business risk indicate that disasters remain at the top of the list on a global scale.  It is natural then to see that many are looking for solutions to protect their businesses, whether they be government delivered services, private sector organisations or community groups.  As Lee Prokaska reports, this is a simple lesson on how collaboration can work well in hospitals affected by flood.  READ ON…


Collaboration Skill #7 – Telling the Lemon Wedge Story

Dr. Ellen Cavanaugh shares her insights into the skill of teaching collaboration to younger audiences.  As pointed out in previous posts, teaching collaboration is in itself a collaborative process.  Specifically, the author talks about the skill of welcoming a new member to a team.  In this down to earth story it is very easy to make broader connections to a variety of scenarios where collaboration is supposed to come naturally.  READ ON…


Why collaboration between banks and alternative lenders is good for small businesses

This piece comes from UK where perhaps market dynamics may have more relevance then say here in Australia.  Regardless, there is an interesting scenario that Adam Tavener argues for: the banks and alternative lenders could do a better job to help SMEs.  The author explains how ‘collaborative financiers’ are an emerging feature and how they can be part of a sustainable future.  READ ON…


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