Collaboration in Hockey?

I don’t know whether it’s happened before, but for the Chicago Blackhawks, winner of the Hockey Stanley Cup, to take out an ad in the Boston Globe to thank their losing opponents, the Bruins, along with the Boston fans and the city itself for their welcome and sportsmanship, was certainly unusual.

In a sport where the joke is that it’s a fight and occasionally a game breaks out, this example of classy behavior is frankly rather inspiring.   Yes, it is self serving, particularly after the strike and loss of the early part of the season, but it’s a great reminder that professional sports are entertainment and enormously influential on the culture of our society.  Winning comes from skill, discipline, teamwork (and a little bit of luck), but sportsmanship builds the fan base and close games fill the stadiums and TV.

More importantly, and the Kingbridge Insight for today is that sportsmanship sends a message to the fans and community at large that respect for your opponent and collaboration in behavior and rules is what makes our society work.

Thank you letter3

Collaboration and The Marshmallow Challenge

Some years ago Tom Wujec, author, Senior Fellow at Auto Desk and an amazing graphic illustrator gave a TED talk called “The Marshmallow Challenge”(video below). In the talk he described how different groups of individuals approach a technical design problem.  The objective of the exercise was for each group to build the tallest free-standing structure in 18 minutes with one yard of tape, one yard of string, 20 sticks of spaghetti and a marshmallow. The groups in this exercise ranged from CEOs to MBAs to lawyers, engineers, architects and kindergartners. The results of this challenge showed how these different groups worked together on the challenge.

Perhaps the most surprising result of this experiment was that the children did better than the CEOs and the MBAs were the worst!  The reason the children did so much better was because their design process included prototypes and instant feedback from each other sharing what they learned along the way. They discarded the failed ideas and built on their successful structures. The MBAs on the other hand spent much of their time debating who would be in charge and what plans they would follow. Architects and engineers did pretty well.  The message taken from this exercise is that how we collaborate is influenced by our habits and the cultures we come from. Understanding and managing those cultures is essential for effective collaboration.

Cultivate a Collaborative Enterprise Culture

Over the last month we have explored cultivating collaborative leadership by developing individual CQ (Cultural Intelligence – What’s your CQ & Cultural Intelligence – Raise your CQ).  Now we will take a look at developing your organizations CQ in order to cultivate a collaborative enterprise culture.

Mary Stacey, founder and Managing Director of Context Management Consulting Inc. in Toronto held a workshop to explore this topic yesterday December 3, 2009 at MaRS Discovery District.

To offer a summary of the interactive session, Stacey suggests that cultivating a collaborative enterprise culture requires that as a leader you must:

1. Pay attention to the culture of your enterprise at every phase of it’s development
2. Develop your individual leadership capacity
3. Develop CQ through leadership DAC
                                                                      Direction: each individual knows the
                                                                      goals and aims of the collective.
                                                                      Alignment: coordination of knowledge
                                                                      and work in the collective.
                                                                      Commitment: willingness of 
                                                                      individuals to expend effort towards the
                                                                      needs of the collective.
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DAC is directly proportional to CQ, that is to say it is a scale where an organization’s DAC can be anywhere on the spectrum between high and low and generally the higher your organizations DAC the higher its CQ.  Therefore, since higher CQ is an indicator of collaborative culture where you sit on that spectrum defines the type of enterprise culture you have.

 CQ 2.0

Where is your organization on this spectrum?

For more detailed information on cultivating collaborative cultures both “Action Inquiry” by Bill Torbert and “Leadership Agility” by Bill Joiner are excellent resources.

Collaborative Culture + Tools + Strategies = Value

Creating value through organizational collaboration is much like baking a cake – forget a key ingredient and it won’t rise.

In today’s economic climate both inter and intra organizational collaborations are increasing, the potential benefits of which are undeniable.  The issue of course is finding the right recipe to successfully bake the cake.

In order for collaborations to work there are 3 key ingredients: strategy to follow, tools and technologies with which to execute the strategy and the organizational culture to support it. (Paraphrased from Evan Rosen’s “The Culture of Collaboration“.  Follow his blog )

A prime example of a successful (well, there were a few hang ups) foray into organizational collaboration is the creation of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  This futuristic aircraft began with Boeings desire to have only the best of the best working on it’s design.  Ordinarily, Boeing would house all the designers and engineers at their site in Washington.  However, with several international candidates in mind that was no longer a viable option.  So, without comprimising their desire to build the best aircraft with the best people Boeing embarked on a collaborative effort massive in scale and expectation.  Rather than simply outsourcing their parts they made several parts designers and manufacturers around the globe ‘partners’ in this venture.  With sites spanning several countries and time zones nearly every position was shared with others in opposing time zones thus allowing design and manufacture to occur 24 hours a day equalling a savings of a full year of production time!

Boeing introduced the Global Collaborative Environment (GCE), a set of computer and networking capabilities made available via the Web to every member of the 787 team, no matter what their location.  Cutting edge 3D CAD programs were distributed to all participating partners to ensure consistency in design, and regular virtual communication was built into the strategy from the start.  Most importantly however, a global culture of collaboration was initiated by having the multipe organizations involved in the 787’s development as co-designers and producers rather than mere suppliers to support the integrity of the process – every participant had a share in the sucess of the Dreamliner.

There were of course road blocks, including material shortages leading to delayed production that had better global monitoring protocols been put in place could have been avoided.  But, ultimately that is part of the process.  For a first attempt Boeing’s global collaboration effort has become a model for other organizational collaborations.

Building a Collaborative Culture

Early in my career, I had a mentor that I didn’t know very well.  I worked in the laboratory equipment business and our companies went to the same trade shows.  We met, but I don’t think he ever remembered who I was. His name was Jack Whitehead.  He was a mentor because I was fascinated by how he built a business that created a field (lab automation).  

The company was called Technicon.  It was a small business started by Jack’s Dad that made pathology processing equipment.  Jack had come across a physician inventor who had developed an automated process for handling liquid samples.  The inventor had tried to interest a number of the big companies in the laboratory field, but had been turned down by all of them.  “There’s no market” he was told.  Jack liked the guy, and the feeling was mutual…and he made a deal.  He didn’t go through the now-familiar due diligence routine, nor did he engage in market research.  His company was private so he didn’t have shareholders who were going to sue him if his next quarter’s results were not up to par.  It was a classic “gut” decision and, as it turned out, a pretty good one. <a style="color:white"

It was what he did next that fascinated me.  There were excellent patents on this novel technology.  And despite the fact that “no market” existed, the inventor had a number of enthusiastic “early adopter” friends who were anxious to use the technology for their specific applications.  So Jack took some orders for his early products…we’d call them prototypes today.   But he had some conditions he insisted on:  you had to pay in advance, you had to spend a week at the factory learning the details of your instrument and you had to help build it.  As you can imagine, to pull that off Jack had to be a great salesman and a fun guy to be with.  The early groups of customers worked like the devil during the day and had a hell of a lot of fun at night.  Jack wasn’t just training customers, he was building a family. 

It was cool to be an early Technicon customer.  You were not only a black belt Technicon user, you were an applications engineer, a development engineer, a marketing manager, a salesman and a public relations person.   You were tolerant if there was a problem with your early machine.  And you helped solve it.  This was viral marketing long before the term came into use.  But it wasn’t just a gimmick.  These people cared: for the technology and the field, for each other, for Jack and for Technicon.  Jack was the steward of the process.  Sure, he benefitted enormously from the help of his disciples, but he understood his role as he shepherded the process and the higher goal of advancing the field and the benefit it provided scientists and patients.  He even organized a scientific forum for the presentation of papers on the applications of his technology.  It was heretical at the time for a company sponsored event to earn the credibility and credentials of an academically sponsored meeting, but he did.  It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it that counts.  And he did it free run 2 women

Obviously I’ve glossed over some of the things that didn’t work so well, but the lessons to me were powerful and long lasting.  I’ve watched other companies create similar cultures, and I tried to do that at Boston Scientific.  It’s not so much a specific set of actions as a mind set.  <a

Who do you admire who has built a collaborative culture?

John Abele