Archive for the ‘Collaboration ’ Category

Contingency Thinking

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”                                                                                      ~Dwight Eisenhower

Meta-planning

As information comes to light about the Special Ops mission in Abbottabad, Pakistan, we’re reminded of the value of effective contingency planning. Military analysts will one day reconstruct the planning measures taken by the JSOC team, and we’ll learn how the project specialists succeeded despite the challenges.

For now we can only speculate about the risks and uncertainties facing the planners at key decision points. But we do know that the mission’s tactical planners had to consider two big questions at every juncture: What can go wrong here, and what do we do about it?

These aren’t the only questions the planners had to pursue. They have to question the intelligence they’re using and they have to examine their own assumptions. Guarding against groupthink is a first order consideration. These “meta-planning” aspects of the exercise are as vital as formulating the action plan itself.

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Planning for What’s Next

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Scenarios are the most powerful vehicles I know for challenging our “mental models” about the world and lifting the blinders that limit our creativity and resourcefulness. ~Peter Schwartz

Using a longer lens

It’s been twenty years since the publication of Peter Schwartz’s insightful primer about scenario planning, The Art of the Long View. In the book, Schwartz makes a convincing case for using scenario planning in approaching strategic challenges of various kinds.

Schwartz, who led scenario planning efforts at Shell, Motorola, and Pacific Gas and Electric, concluded that the technique could be applied to handling the emergent complex threats that companies were confronting in the 90’s.

Since then, the world has grown radically more complex, more uncertain. Globalization and the Internet have woven together our institutions so that a crisis in one corner of the world can spread virally with far-reaching consequences.

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Unleashing a Coalition

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

High stakes, high pressure

As our society debates the need for more civil discourse, we’re underplaying the value of competing perspectives among our leaders. I’m a fan of rival leaders who can come together despite their differences to redefine their company’s mission.

For institutions grappling with deep change, there’s no better way to start than by assembling a coalition of leaders and entrusting them to set a new direction. When the stakes are high, a team of diverse, tough-minded leaders reaching a consensus can yield resoundingly productive results.

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The Generative Conversation

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

In his insightful book, Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson tells the story of Kevin Dunbar, a McGill University social psychologist, who sought to figure out in the early ’90s how research scientists generate breakthrough ideas. Dunbar videotaped and interviewed researchers working in a variety of settings.

In tracking the activities and relative successes of his subjects, Dunbar found that the greatest number of breakthroughs occurred not when scientists were peering into their microscopes, as one might suspect, but when they were talking with one another at meetings.

Why? When chatting with their colleagues who worked on other projects, the researchers tended to re-conceptualize their own work to be understood. In doing so, new ideas emerged and, occasionally, some were fruitful.

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Lessons From Emerging Markets

Sunday, December 19th, 2010


Turning the page

Another interesting year is rapidly winding down. This year, I had the chance to work with many gifted business and tech leaders, but it was particularly satisfying collaborating with innovators in developing regions — the Sub-Sahara, the Middle East and South Asia.

It’s time for Western multinational companies — especially those in the customer-facing sectors — to enter developing markets where consumer-led growth is robust but capital and resources are in short supply.

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Remembering C.K. Prahalad

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

Invest time in languages and intercultural awareness. Focus on becoming part of global citizenry. In exchange for the opportunity to participate everywhere/anywhere in the world you have the obligation to do something productive, which will improve the world.  ~C.K. Prahalad

Distinguished scholar and visionary

The distinguished business scholar, C. K. Prahalad, died unexpectedly last week of a lung ailment at the age of 69. His contributions to the pursuit of business strategy and innovation are unparalleled.  He’s had an enormous influence on my work and that of my peers.

Dr. Prahalad was more than a celebrated management guru, he was a visionary.  He redefined the way that a growing number of global businesses deal with developing markets, and he helped to shape a new economic paradigm.

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Dispatch from West Africa

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

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Downtown Cape Coast, Ghana

Pulsating business scene

I spent the last couple weeks on assignment in Accra, Ghana. On this trip, I’ve seen more growth than any time since my company started working there in ’07. This is a period of unprecedented business activity and promising new projects within and beyond the mobile sector.  Meanwhile, new competitors from around the world are streaming in. This corner of Africa’s business scene is pulsating.

Astute businesses here are taking steps to preserve their client base and deepen relationships with their customers. We’re privileged to work with a new generation of African business leaders with the courage and determination to transform their offerings to meet the needs of an emerging class of consumers.

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International Seasoning

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Information’s pretty thin stuff unless mixed with experience. ~Clarence Day

Nearly every day, I work with colleagues who are eight or more time zones away. I’ve been doing this, with few interruptions, since the ‘80s. Back then, “geographically distributed” projects were run only by multinational corporations.  Times have changed.

Global markets have become more interdependent, and collaboration across borders is now commonplace, even at smaller companies.  Businesses know that they have to team up with companies in other regions to compete in the global “value creation” race*.

But a lot of companies struggle with this. In a June, 2009 survey by TMA World, 82% of respondents rated the performance of their company’s “global, virtual” teams as either ‘moderate’ or ‘poor’.  Yet nearly all of those surveyed said that global teams were ‘very important’ to their organizations.

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International Rules of Engagement

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

paris

Paris Urban Pattern

I’ve recently noticed a subtle but perceptible attitude shift among Americans working in foreign markets. My overseas colleagues are noticing, too. American business people, they say, are displaying more thoughtfulness than usual. U.S. companies operating overseas seem less inclined to approach global business as though its epicenter is in New York or Palo Alto.

It’s too soon to call this a new Zeitgeist, but change is in the air. The global economic crisis, which has its roots in the U.S., may be partially responsible. I think the new vibe is also influenced by Washington’s new tone in its approach to global  affairs.  As an American doing business abroad, this is promising.

Historically, many American firms have approached business from a decidedly ethnocentric perspective–more so than many of our European rivals.  U.S. companies have missed opportunities as a result.

Things seem to be moving in a better direction now.

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At the Heart of Business

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

empathic-response

It is with the heart that one sees rightly; what is essential  is invisible to the eye. ~Antoine De Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

Business stories about “empathy” are springing up again. BusinessWeek ran one (Empathy = Growth) last week.  Fast Company covers the subject periodically. Authors are urging readers to consider the merits of empathy despite the need to cut operating costs as demand for services declines. It makes sense for businesses to re-evaluate their customer relationships in this environment. I think empathy remains widely misunderstood and its role is undervalued in the business community.

Simply put, empathy is rooted in the capacity to see the world through the eyes of another person.  Empathy enables a provider of service to recognize the buyer’s feelings, needs, and wants in order to fulfill these drivers through various means.

I’m interested in a broad spectrum of “relational competencies,” including empathy, and how they are used in business. Skillful practitioners use these competencies to show their understanding, respect and appreciation for others.  These skills include self-awareness and various social competencies that enable the practitioner to listen to and validate customers which forms the basis of relationships.

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Wikis & Co-Creationism

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

What’s next?  Web 2.0 is revolutionizing the way companies operate. Mass collaboration is already having a profound effect on the way we work. Blogs, JAMS, collaborative filtering, tags, feeds and wikis are fundamentally changing the way business knowledge is created and, despite some new challenges, what’s not to love?

The revolution is discussed by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams in their compelling ’07 book, Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. The authors explore opportunities for organizations to understand and tap into web-enabled collaboration.     

Describing the upheaval as a social revolution isn’t mere hype. Even though mass collaboration, on a global scale, has just begun, encyclopedias, airplanes, software and a host of products and services are being created by distributed teams across oceans.  

P&G was struggling until it shifted to a mass collaboration-driven R&D model several years ago.  Their  success in creating new products and gnerating incremental revenue captured the minds and hearts of analysts around the world.

My company is taking part in wiki-based client-directed efforts.  Team members in Chicago, Seattle and Dublin are collaborating on projects for clients in Capetown and Milwaukee.  

The immediacy and accessibility of wikis leads to an informal, roll-up-your-sleeves setting. And it’s not just atmospherics at play. Under the right circumstances productive wiki-brainstorms tend to occur… 

There are many new challenges concerning how to structure problems to enable multiple teams to work on them and how to manage organizational networks of collaboration. This is fertile ground for social networkers and other theorists to explore.  We keep abreast of emergent practices across industries but some of our best insights come from direct experimention.

The spirit of enthusiasm and experimentation drive our best wiki effots. And I can’t begin to describe the pure joy of escaping the shackles of e-mail.  What’s not to love?  To be continued…