How do you introduce a totally new concept to a skeptical market?

Explore some of the idiosyncrasies of changing not only organizational culture but market perception with John Abele, Co-Founder Boston Scientific – a medical device company that helped pave the way for less invasive medicine.

Today’s Kingbridge Insight from Owner, John Abele:

“When introducing a new idea to a skeptical group, market or society, it is important to start small and build a band of disciples.  They must be believers who are knowledgeable, eloquent, passionate and resourceful.  They won’t be present leaders.  They will be future leaders.  The establishment is inherently resistant to change.  They need to be won over by demonstration and understatement, not hyperbole.  The successful future leaders will be courageous and patient.”  ~ John Abele

Change Begins with Inquiry

I recently attended a heated town meeting where there was a significant difference of opinion on how to most effectively develop a large parcel of land that resides across from our Conference Centre. As I sat there listening to the various perspectives I found myself becoming frustrated that, considering the importance of the issue, nobody was there to moderate the conversation. The intense atmosphere of anger led the participants to become polarized. Here a community was coming together to try to create something we would all be proud of, however, because the conversation was allowed to get so out of control we lost sight of the bigger picture.  Interestingly, as I was jotting down notes from the conversation I began to notice points of agreement from the different sides, but because of the hostility those points weren’t captured. If a competent moderator had been present these connections could have been brought to the forefront of the conversation and mitigated participant polarization.

Asking the right questions can refocus a polarized group of people, spur creativity & innovation, shape strategy, enable change, encourage people to think differently, build better teams & stronger relationships, as well as restore trust and confidence. In addition to knowing how to frame questions in ways that open the mind to think differently, it is also important to create the right environment and conditions so participants feel comfortable being open and candid.

Sometimes when a team I am working with gets stuck and becomes frustrated with each others view points I find something as simple as the use of a humorous video clip satirizing a similar situation can get them to open their minds and shift their current ways of thinking. Now, after a good laugh and a much needed shift in perspective we can start over having a very different conversation that allows us to break through those polarizing and frustrating moments. I tend to use video clips from “The Daily Show with John Stewart”, he has a humorous way of showing the audience how silly things sound when opinions have become so diverse that we have lost our ability to focus on the issue at hand.

Here are some strategies for leaders when a discussion starts to get emotional and go off track:

  • Ask for a “Quaker moment” of silence. It’s sort of like counting to 10. But it can last for 60 seconds. It allows a team to “restart” the discussion in a more productive manner.
  • Ask what would a great leader do in a situation like this? Ask opposing parties for their suggestions. eg, what would Lincoln have done?
  • Ask if there are ways to test each other’s responses
  • Reframe the question – what if we were to define it in another way.

In addition, below are some helpful guidelines for asking effective questions to use with your team ~ provided by Michael Jones one of our Fellows in the Kingbridge Collaboration Centre, Michael’s work focuses on helping organizations and communities engage in transformative conversations. He also uses music to encourage people to have better conversations with each other. Continue reading

Why We Need to Collaborate

Considering the number of people participating in the sharing economy, it’s a wonder it’s not growing any quicker. With the increased popularity in sharing and collaborating, I believe we are currently watching sharing “go viral”. At first it’s a few organizations building a few websites to participate, now it seems like collaborating is the new hot thing. I’ve been following collaborating in the news for the last few years and recently I’ve seen a massive influx in all things “sharing”.

The UK Consumer Earnings from Sharing 2012 is an earnings report done specifically for Global Sharing Day to outline the number of people already working within the sharing economy and the advantages therein. When you look at the numbers, collaboration is only gathering more and more evidence as the next innovation revolution. Collapsing tiers and hierarchies and business sectors seems to be an ideal solution and inevitable response to this increased “need for sharing”.

When you look at who is collaborating, and how, you realize that it’s not just one business that changes because of collaboration – it changes all business. We’re seeing companies collapse silos into one collaborative entity; projects that were one person’s idea turning into  global movements; entire secondary and tertiary economies developing – collaborating is literally revolutionizing business from within.

It started with a general interest in efficiency, and has become a global project. “Sharing”, “collaborating” – whatever you want to call it – has turned from a way to minimize cost and maximize value into what will become the only way to do business. The numbers are only going one way, and as far as I can tell, they’re speeding up. As more and more people seek to join the sharing economy, there will be fewer and fewer that will do business with so-called “non-collaborators” or “loners” – if these people keep resisting change, they’ll be left behind.

Practice makes Perfect, so Start Collaborating

Collaboration is “working together towards a common goal”, but how do I know when and where to do that? Any situation that has a problem and a solution is a perfect opportunity to collaborate, and here’s why.

Collaboration works really well when all parties involved share the same goals, or face the same problems, and have some intrinsic motivation towards achieving or solving them. Goals and problems are motivating in and of themselves, because they create unresolved tension.

Goals present an “end point” that implies the journey or task is incomplete in some way. There’s a finish line, we’re just not there yet. Problems are the same way. When we see a problem, we instinctively look for the solution, and if we don’t see it, it sparks some inner curiosity that makes us want to find it.

Take brainstorming for example. Brainstorming inherently means people working together to solve a problem. It implies a high level of complexity, or why would it require a dedicated event with a guest list? It also seems to imply a degree of unknown-ness or newness that requires exploration by the parties involved.

Department or company projects are another great example. They create a finish line, but one that can only be reached as a team. This creates a twofold motivation. Individuals are motivated to collaborate because none of them can reach the goal alone, and the team is motivated to leverage those individual skills and assets.

This is only to say that these are great opportunities for collaboration, not that they always turn out that way. The motivation is the important part. Extrinsic motivation (compensation for achieving the goal) has to be balanced with intrinsic motivation, the latter being much more powerful.

Problems that need to be solved and goals to be reached are just such motivations, and it is in these situations that we should try to collaborate. Any situation that has a problem to be solved or a task to be completed presents an opportunity to collaborate with someone. If we start taking those opportunities every time they are presented we can become expert collaborators, meaning more collaboration in more situations. Practice makes perfect!