John Abele: Medical Devices to Conference Centre – The Connection

John Abele, co-founder of Boston Scientific spent the better part of 4 decades pioneering the field of less invasive medicine.  With the undeniable success of Boston Scientific John has since pursued philanthropic endeavors including promoting science literacy for children and projects in social innovation.  John also purchased The Kingbridge Conference Centre & Institute in Ontario, Canada.

So, why a conference centre?  It seems an unlikely progression, medical devices to meetings, but for John the link is clear.  The current edition of Briefings Magazine published by The Korn/Ferry Institute features an article by accomplished author Glenn Rifkin exploring this very connection –  “Growth Through Collaboration: John Abele’s Vision”.

The article highlights how after years of working to convince often ego driven medical professionals and a bureaucratic medical industry to make change and ‘try something new’ that the key to success was collaborative approaches featuring innovative meeting techniques.  One of the most notable outcomes of these efforts is the still widely used Live Demonstration Course.

(Full article here)

In the following video John summarizes in his own words his vision for The Kingbridge Conference Centre & Institute and it’s roots in his experience with Boston Scientific.

Why Purchase a Conference Centre? from Kingbridge Conference Centre on Vimeo.

The Collaboration Paradox: Understanding the Magic of Getting Things Done – Webinar!

One of the mainstays of successful collaboration is engineering interactivity and purposeful communication between the members.  Advances in technology have provided the tools to make this easier and accessible but it is still up to the organizer(s) to create the right conditions for collaboration to work.

Take advantage of the opportunity to learn about what makes a successful collaboration (and not so successful) via one of the very technology tools that make it possible by joining the Pegasus Communications Webinar “The Collaboration Paradox: Understanding the Magic of Getting Things Done” with me, John Abele on January 11, 2011.


The Collaboration Paradox:
Understanding the Magic of Getting Things Done

with John Abele

A 90-minute live webinar andjohnabele interactive discussion
Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 2-3:30 pm ET
Register for this live webinar

The need for more truly powerful collaborations, where the collective intelligence of a diverse set of minds is harnessed toward a common goal, is greater than ever. And yet we find collaboration vexingly difficult to do. In this webinar,John Abele, renowned co-founder of Boston Scientific, will examine the many different types of collaboration along with the barriers to making them effective. He’ll describe new tactics and approaches that may seem counterintuitive, but that will help unleash the wisdom of a crowd far better than more obvious approaches. John will share learnings from his extensive experiences in business, medicine, education, science, and philanthropy.

In this webinar, you will::

  • Learn from extraordinary successes and spectacular failures
  • Take away tips for overcoming the challenges that stand in the way of effective collaboration
  • Discuss how to foster rational discussion by understanding root causes, analyzing issues and options, and weighing trade offs—together
  • Understand how best to collaborate around implementing solutions
  • Receive a copy of the “Kingbridge Meeting Design Guidelines,” from the Kingbridge Centre and Institute

This 90-minute interactive session is $129.00 per site (a single phone line). You can use a speakerphone so that a group of people can participate. You will also have unlimited access to the recorded version following the event.

Date and Time
The live webinar is being held on Tuesday, January 11, 2011, from 2 to 3:30 pm ET. When you register, you will receive detailed information about how to call in and participate.

John Abele is the retired founding chairman of Boston Scientific Corporation ( and one of the pioneers of less invasive medicine. He holds numerous patents, and has published and lectured extensively on the technical, social, economic, and political trends and issues affecting healthcare and on strategies for improving collaboration between individuals, businesses, and organizations. John’s major interests are science literacy for children, education, and disruptive technological innovation. He is currently vice chair (former chair) of the FIRST Foundation, which works with high school kids to make science literacy cool and fun, and owner of The Kingbridge Centre and Institute, a conference center that is devoted to perfecting the “Art of Conferencing” and hosting exceptional meetings.

Register for this live webinar!

What is ‘Real’ Collaboration?

Before we can dive into defining ‘real’ collaboration we need to clarify the type of collaboration we are referring to, which is collaboration for creative problem solving.  In these collaborations there is a diverse group of participants who are not just working together but harnessing the collective intelligence of the group to produce innovative ideas, solutions and actions.

Real collaboration results from a delicate balance between too little and too much control.  It works best when there is a high level of creativity in the group, a common goal, a sense of urgency and a certain amount of friction in the group.   However, even with these components collaboration will fail if the behaviours that result from the pressure and tension are not moderated appropriately.  The recipe for collaboration has many ingredients including design, leadership and environment.

Successful collaboration is often seen in times of crisis, when the common goal of a group is survival.  For example, the current mining disaster in Chile: 33 miners trapped underground for 17 days before being discovered managed to survive on 48 hours worth of rations.  This feat itself could only have been made possible through significant collaborative effort among the trapped miners.  All 33 were dedicated to a common goal, the sense of urgency profound, and any self serving behaviours moderated for the benefit of their collective survival.<

The Collaboration Paradox: Some Tactics for Getting Things Right

A proposed book by John Abele – Part 2

What’s critical to any creative collaboration, is that it begins with a goal but no blueprint to follow, because much will be discovered during the process.  Each individual is expected to share any of his or her knowledge, opinions, and discoveries that will help to achieve the group’s common goal. What’s most surprising about the lack of success with these endeavors is that we have an ever-expanding array of tools that can enhance collaboration, such as Wikis, search engines, smart phones, and social networks.  The reasons that collaborations fail, however, involve those crucial soft ingredients—behaviors and mindset.

The most important point is that collaboration is a mindset, not a set of steps.   So, while I can recommend steps, and give examples of how they have worked, people will need to shoot for the mindset and try different approaches depending on the situation.

I like to call this mental attitude the “collaborative state.” Helping groups reach that state depends on the mix of people involved, the work done to prepare for the collaboration, and the characteristics of whoever is leading the effort.

The first feature that will decide whether a collaboration fails or succeeds is the choice of collaborators. Many people want the most prestigious and intelligent people they can find, but in fact, it’s more important to get a diverse mix of people who represent different perspectives, skills, and mindsets. Diversity reduces groupthink and amplifies the variety of input.

Then, to get that group to truly work together, the leader must create a unique environment of openness, trust, candor, risk taking, astute awareness, and of sensitivity to the various personalities involved. There must be a clear set of rules for how to act so that people feel safe about expressing their views.  But the participants shouldn’t feel too safe; in fact, it helps to keep them slightly off balance, even a bit uncomfortable, so that they are open to the unexpected and willing to be unorthodox if that’s what is necessary to get to the answers the group needs. The participants must be engaged from the beginning, and that requires a lot of preparation and “stage setting.”

Most importantly, the leader or moderator must have impresario-like skills, so that he or she can make certain that every voice is heard, that people are comfortable sharing all their ideas, and that the overall process maximizes the likelihood that the very best ideas will get approved— not just those of the most powerful participants. The leader’s most important tasks include managing divas and helping less well-known participants to shine.

Getting to the “collaborative state” takes a lot of planning and work behind the scenes, in clarifying the goals, setting the stage, drawing up the list of participants, grooming them for the process, and then overseeing the collaboration.  Many of the tactics that help create that environment are counter-intuitive.  For example, leaders need to cede control – in order to gain control – another paradox. They must also carefully manage the personalities in the group and set an example to show that everyone will be treated fairly and given a voice, and that creative ideas are welcomed. Group leaders must also work against “the system” to make it clear that in this particular setting bullying, patronizing, and relentless self-promotion are considered counter-productive.  If the right steps are followed, and a group does reach peak collaboration, amazing things can happen.   

We invite you to share with us:

What have your experiences been?  

Are you a collaboration leader? 

Would you like to participate in a collaboration forum?

The Collaboration Paradox: Why so many leaders sabotage their own collaborations

A proposed book by John Abele – Part 1

Collaboration is one of those things everyone thinks they understand, but very few actually do. True, some types of collaboration are natural or easy to learn, but the highest, most valuable kind, where everybody in the group is thinking creatively and sharing openly is extremely rare.  Now, in the era of Web 2.0, a wave of new collaboration tools are being unleashed so that even more and bigger collaborations are being announced daily. But most people won’t get much value out of these exciting new tools if they don’t pay attention to the crucial soft ingredients — the behaviors and mindset — needed to make collaboration really work.

From the time we start school and throughout our careers, we are taught and rewarded for the very traits that make it difficult for us to collaborate effectively. This situation is compounded by the way we teach leaders to rigorously assert control as often as possible so their authority is constantly being reinforced. Controlling people is the opposite of collaborating with them.  As a result, most leaders of collaborations are doing exactly the wrong things when they bring people together to collaborate, and the other people involved in those projects are essentially programmed to derail or resist collaboration.  This is The Collaboration Paradox.

In ”creative” collaborations, it is not just a matter of people pitching in what they know; the goal is to extrapolate beyond the group’s collective knowledge. As mentioned earlier, the skills we are taught to be the most important for success are actually collaboration busters.  In school, at work, and everywhere we are shown that success comes through self promotion and devotion to our own “kind,” whether it is a department, professional field, or political viewpoint.  Young athletes are taught to win at all costs and to celebrate “crushing” their opponents. There are precious few role models who celebrate victory without also celebrating “defeat of the enemy.”  When these same traits are allowed to dominate a collaboration, it becomes a very negative experience.  Only a few participants have any real say.  The rest feel intimidated or exploited, and as if their time is being wasted.  This type of “hollow” collaboration happens so much, that many people are very skeptical about collaborating. In particular, they may have the following fears, which inhibit them from really contributing:

•    Their best ideas will be stolen.

•    Their weaknesses will be highlighted.

•    There will be a hidden agenda.

•    The participants will have such different ideas that they’ll never agree on anything.

•    Certain individuals or camps will dominate.

Too often, creative collaborations become a pseudo collaborations.  They sound good, but are totally hollow.  With so many parts, players, and egos involved, simply managing the political aspects of such projects is challenging enough, let alone integrating the results into anything actionable.   In the end, the organizers may make glowing reference to the long list of divas they assembled, but often they have little to show for that effort and almost certainly nothing really new has come from it.

Check out today’s nytlogo152x23for an example of how collaboration and information sharing has lead to a recent breakthrough in Alzheimer’s.

Stay tuned – next week we will look at some tips and strategies to maximize the incredible potential of creative collaborations.

Calling all Healthcare Collaborators

kingbridge_article_img_7As a pioneer and leader in the field of less invasive medicine I have spent over four decades working across many medical disciplines trying to overcome the biases inherent in clinical medicine and disruptive change. Out of this process a number of innovative collaboration technology tools and strategies have emerged.

LibraryMy passion for continuing to research how collective intelligence can give way to collective capability that brings about significant change inspired me to purchase The Kingbridge Centre as a laboratory and resource for pursuing this effort.  My vision for this centre is to create a neutral place where leaders from diverse sectors with different backgrounds can mutually explore effective experiences as well as doing post mortems on unsuccessful ones.

I believe the most significant advances in healthcare will require collaborations between business, government, non-government organizations and academia to improve individual and collective efforts for evolving health systems nationally and globally.

I would like to begin to build a community of collaborative minded professionals by hosting/sponsoring a few interactive forums at Kingbridge this year.  If you are interested in being a part of these forums and have a past successful or unsuccessful collaboration experience to share please contact me either through a comment on this forum or at

John Abele