I have been tipped off about an emerging organizational structure and designed system based on collaboration and building a semi-flat workforce where ‘winning’ equates to collaborating. The system is reaching thousands at the moment through sophisticated teleconferences and in-person workshops. (http://www.collaborativeleaders.us/WhatIsCollab.html)
My understanding and enthusiasm for this system is based upon its fundamental belief:
“Hierarchy is a 5500-year-old system
originally used to manage large, unskilled labor
pools such as building projects and infantry. It was
not designed to run complex organizations such
as the ones we have today, where the labor pool
is often as well-informed and educated as their
“superiors,” sometimes more so. It is ill suited
to solving intractable problems such as health
care and the energy crisis. And yet, this win/lose
system remains one of the most deeply embedded
paradigms of our time despite Nobel Prize-winning
demonstration that win-win produces the highest
possible payoffs for all players.” Rachel Conerly and Tim Kelley
I am very thrilled with their assessment of what’s wrong fundamentally with organizational systems today attempting to approach and even solve tough, national and worldly problems such as energy, the health care debacle, and efforts like transitioning government into the knowledge age and recovering government trust.
What catches my eye is their correlation that hierarchical systems are win/lose systems where in the ‘trickle down’ method that occurs within hierarchy, operationally people function in competition with each other where there is a first and a second, and so on. I have learned a lot about high performance teams over the last decade of my life and I fundamentally believe and have seen the proof, that high performance teams work best in collaborative, semi-flat systems where the win/lose mentality dissolves and the trust grows between people.
Here is what I have written as best-practices to build and support high performance teams: (assuming that the environment and the overarching framework is in place for high performance team building to begin with):
1) enable high creative intelligence to flourish (e.g. allow for creativity and those with high, keen sense of ability lead the white-boarding or the ideation sessions, leverage their insights and push back in playful way to challenge their thinking—not to discredit their thoughts as wrong as this creates lack of trust and lack of risk-taking)
2)ability to identify the talents and gifts of others and conduct yourself in a way with them that demonstrates you value them at their best, that you are not competing with each other, and the team values them at their best (e.g. push them to take on something that stretches them, provide them with honest feedback in person and sustained support and then position them to shine in areas where they didn’t think they could or would be valued…it is driven from a place of security in yourself)
3) practice passing the baton like a relay racer when you are out of breath and trust the person who is getting ready to take it that they have your back and the back of the team’s mission (e.g. overly thank and demonstrate appreciation for their agility and quick response)
4) laugh and let go of your own need for security knowing that ability to have play and have fun with the work is a key part of work and trust that the team and the collective intelligence of the team is much greater than your individual intelligence.
I have much more to learn, and I am enthusiastic by the change I see on the horizon with new, emerging leaders everywhere. I am convinced that the future is about ‘we’ and this will break a crack in more than just problems to be solved, it will break a crack in the very paradigm upon which ‘America’ was built…it will crack into the individualism of our brand building, it will crack into the isolationism of politics and nation-building. I believe that it will shepherd the future of a collaborative world.
Emily Riley: Innovation Practitioner
I was walking through a book store about a month ago and came across the following maxims on a page within a recent release of a book about and by John Wooden, the classic and classy coach of UCLA from back in the day who passed away in June of this year.
Here’s what he wrote:
1. Do not mistake activity for achievement.
2. Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out.
3. A player who makes the team great is better than a great player.
4. The best way to improve the team is to improve yourself.
I like his maxims. He claims fondness for maxims because they convey so much with so little. I think they are very applicable to innovative teams.
I think that while activity and ‘doing’ is important and even for managers who are moving towards higher and higher levels of leadership; doing is important in order to continue to understand the reality on the ground. However, activity for the sake of activity is not effective or helpful within the high performance team environment. Collaborating effectively with your team members is a much better use of your time and will move the team to greater levels of unified, collective intelligence and therefore impact on the company or organization’s objectives.
I think that we all take ‘hits’ in our work lives, particularly those of us who stand out from the crowd and ‘push the envelope.’ I think that we are often taking negativity, or what many people are calling attacks from the antibodies, within organizations that are inherently resistant to change. So, it requires thoughtful examination, evolutionary approaches to our work life and positioning with respect to issues and concerns within the company, and we make the best of certain situations when the forces and powers that be are much greater than our individual influence. The ability to reposition, to stand again, and to continue to be innovative despite set-backs is what I look for in mentors, is what I aspire towards, and what I think makes great leaders in the end.
Hands down we must all have the ability to play within the team environment and know when to pass the ball. I had the dean of engineering at University of Dayton whom I view as a mentor say to me, you played basketball so you must know how to think in the moment and with all five fingers or players in mind (like Phil Jackson’s metaphor of the hand making a great team with all five fingers in synch) . He’s right that in sports and particularly basketball, although I am probably biased since this was my love, is where we have an opportunity to learn to be about the greater whole and that even a loss can be a win if we as a team played together and built trust, comraderie, and communication needed to succeed. Even though we lost the game, we won as a team.
Finally, I love the fourth maxim because it challenges us at our core. The best way to improve the team is to look in the mirror and work on the things that we have before us as our own personal and professional challenges to overcome. In doing so, we take responsibility and we contribute to a better team by working on those parts of ourselves and our practices that need polish, or need re-positioned, or need to acknowledge the greater whole or our team members whose work we rely on. In all, this is #4, and yet to me the greatest of them all and represents the greatest rate of return for a team. Truly awesome teams are built by individuals who have the courage, the strength and the determination to take on themselves and their challenges to make themselves better and therefore the team better.
Best wishes in your pursuits for innovations, higher performance within your teams and collaborations, and for a better world.
PS: John Wooden’s book is called, The Wisdom of Wooden: My Century On and Off the Court.
Emily Riley: Innovation Practitioner