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Creating Successful Leaders

You probably know that successful businesses are built around good collaboration, but you may not know that sometimes collaboration can actually be a negative force in an organization. Author Morten T. Hansen addresses the issue with an example in his book, Collaboration:

“When oil giant British Petroleum (BP) started to promote cross-unit collaboration,” writes Hansen, “leaders encouraged the formation of cross-unit networks focused on areas of shared interest. Over time, this idea flowered into an unforeseen number of networks and subnetworks…which consumed increasing amounts of managers’ time.”

This tendency toward overdoing it stems from the notion that more structure equals better results. But this often backfires, costing time and money. In reality, collaboration is the result of good chemistry between individuals united behind a single cause. Instead of implementing rules for how to collaborate, or “forcing it,” we should promote an environment that allows individuals to collaborate naturally.

I came across a YouTube video by Angela Fernandez Orviz that does a good job of illustrating how collaboration sparks creativity and innovation.

After watching the video, I arrived at a few points:

1. Seek out diverse strengths and personality types

As Orviz states, we must utilize a large network of disciplines in order to address issues in a global world. Most groups must diversify their business to stay relevant. This means integrating all sorts of professions, be they doctors, scientists,  journalists or salespeople.

2. Keep an open mind and embrace Divergent Thinking

Set your own ego aside and keep your mind open to many different ways of solving a problem. Each member of the team brings a specialized skill and viewpoint to the table, and it is up to the group as a whole to be open to everyone’s take on the matter. The brainstorming process may take longer as a result, as you’ll see ideas come from every angle possible, and you may face some frustrating road blocks. Hence, I strongly recommend that you…

3. Agree On The Objectives Early On

Before you even begin brainstorming, draft a written document that all members of the team agree on that specifically states the aims of the project at hand. This will act as a road map that keeps the collaborative process within a workable framework. In this way, you’ll be able to allow for divergent thinking and creative meandering, resting assured that you’ll eventually find your way to real solutions. Solutions which could not have been reached without many minds and strengths working in unison.

Hansen, Morten T. “Collaboration: How leaders avoid the traps,  create unity, and reap the big results.” Boston: Harvard Business Press, 2009, page 12.


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