True Collaboration is Scary


Collaboration is a strategic imperative for UBM – you can’t have a high performing culture or a high performing business without it.

But knowing collaboration is important and doing it are two different things; after all, collaboration is hard and collaboration is scary.

Working out loud is a key behaviour of social collaboration, but it takes courage. Collaboration happens in the open, and it takes guts to share what you’re working before you’ve finished; it means working through your mistakes openly, sticking your head above the parapet, and sometimes it can feel like bearing your soul in pursuit of an idea.

So while we’ve already taken the step towards making collaboration easier with the Hub – the tool which enables us to share, discover and debate our thoughts, ideas, templates, knowledge, strategies and processes with our global colleagues – it doesn’t make it less scary.

But bravery does pay off. By getting other people’s eyes – and more importantly their brains – on your work it helps you get things done and makes the outcome of your project/campaign/pitch/strategy much better than if you’d developed it in isolation or the perceived safety of your silo.

Your colleagues want you to do well and, more importantly, they want to help you get there. Collaboration doesn’t have to be scary.

Photo credit: ‘ColLABoration’ by edlabdesigner is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

It’s leadership, but not as we know it

The World Technology NetworkLast night I went to a truly mind blowing talk, ‘Manifesto for a New Civilization’, with James P. Clark, Founder/Chairman of The World Technology Network. I fully recommend watching the full presentation which is available here.

One of the many, many things his presentation got me thinking about is where does leadership come from within an organisation? How is this changing? What do we need to be considering as individuals, colleagues, business leaders and employees of the approaching future?

There is no doubt that we are living in a time of unprecedented and accelerated change due to digital technologies. James’ presentation attests to the notion that we’ve had more change in the past 20-30 years than we did in the previous 2,000-3,000 years of human history.

And this has vast implications for corporate organisations as we know them today. In an era of rapid acceleration, knowledge becomes a hindrance as you have more to unlearn; experience starts to work against you when the future landscape is so significantly different to the past. In this environment the traditional rewards and hierarchs of companies start to become irrelevant. Seniority and pay based on time served or wisdom accrued becomes redundant, rather ideas, collaboration, and sustainability become the new corporate currency.

The democratisation of publishing tools is driving this organisational transformation. The tools of change are now in all of our hands, not just those at the top of the company pyramid. Some organisations are already adjusting to this shift through the introduction of enterprise social networking and digital collaboration platforms. These platforms are accelerating the spread of the democratisation of new ideas and innovation within businesses; the means to create change is no longer for the chosen few but for the collective minds of many.

And this leads me back to my original question, in this future landscape, where does leadership come from within an organisation? One comment which really struck me during James’ talk was about the Arab Spring. Can you name a leader? Revolutions of the past had a central figurehead, a driving force of change – think Fidel Castro, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King – but we’re now moving into a era of leaderless revolutions. Could we also be moving into an era of leaderless organisations – or at least leadership as we currently understand it?

The significance of this is profound, but it doesn’t take too much of an imaginative leap to get there. People follow people and in an organisational structure where everyone’s voice carries the same weight thanks to digital technologies, where our traditional notions of knowledge work against us, and hierarchs become irrelevant, who and where will you be choosing to put your trust? In the old system of pyramids based on outdated wisdom, or in the collective intelligence of your peers?

Those organisations who survive this change will be those who have restructured themselves around flexibility and resilience, and embraced sustainability and the democratisation of information. And that goes for us as individuals too, are you ready?