Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!
Nothing portentous or polite;
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!
Something for everyone:
A comedy tonight!
(A Comedy Tonight, from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum; lyrics by Stephen Sondheim)
It may not take long to make a really big difference.
A consultant who is the right consultant is worth everything.
Collaboration really does matter.
These are my thoughts as I think of the opening story in the book The Collaborative Habit by Twyla Tharp. The year was 1962. If you know Broadway at all, you know the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. When it was in its pre-Broadway run, it was not going well. The audiences were not warming up to the play. They had a sure-fire disaster on their hands.
So Stephen Sondheim and Hal Prince (Let me say that again: Stephen Sondheim and Hal Prince had a disaster on their hands – that ought to tell us something!) called in a consultant. Admittedly, this was a world-class consultant: Jerome Robbins. He had just won his Oscar for West Side Story, and was a legend in every sense of the word. Here is Tharp’s account:
No one was laughing. Not Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the music and lyrics. Not veteran director George Abbott. Certainly not producer Hal Prince and the play’s backers. And, most important of all, not the audience. (They were) fleeing the theater.
When a show has script trouble, it’s common for the producers to bring in a “play doctor.” In business, he’d be called a consultant. I’d call him a collaborator – someone who works with others to solve a problem.
Jerome Robbins watched a performance – and by intermission, not only had he analyzed the problem, he had a solution. Jerome Robbins offered simple, commonsense advice: “It’s a comedy. Tell them that.”
Sondheim quickly wrote an opening number called “Comedy Tonight” – “Something convulsive,/Something repulsive/Something for everyone: a comedy tonight!” – and once ticket buyers knew what they were supposed to do, they laughed. The New York reviews were cheers for an “uninhibited romp.”
The rest, as they say, is history. 954 performances, a hit movie followed. In other words, a consultation/collaboration that was a complete success.
Here is the lesson. “We are smarter than me.” Find the right “we.” Listen to advice – and implement solutions quickly.
And never think you know enough without the wisdom of others. If Stephen Sondheim needed help, there’s a good chance you will too.
“You’re already self employed. When are you going to start acting like it?”
Themes. Clusters. After 12+ years of presenting synopses and briefings of business books, I clearly see that there are patterns, themes, clusters of books dealing with similar problems and pointing us in similar directions. Here is one really obvious, and important such theme.
We need to learn to collaborate – or perish.
• Because “I” don’t know enough – “we are smarter than any “me”
• Because the problems may be really, really big
• Because the knowledge obtained through collaboration will make your decisions/actions better
• Because the knowledge is more available than anyone could have ever imagined…
This phrase (collaborate – or perish) is a direct quote from Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. Here’s the more complete quote:
Peer production is a very social activity. All one needs is a computer, a network connection, and a bright spark of initiative and creativity to join in the economy.
These changes are ushering us toward a world where knowledge, power, and productive capability will be more dispersed than at any time in our history – a world where value creation will be fast, fluid, and persistently disruptive. A world where only the connected will survive. A power shift is underway, and a tough new business rule is emerging: Harness the new collaboration or perish. Those who fail to grasp this will find themselves ever more isolated – cut off from the networks that are sharing, adapting, and updating knowledge to create value.
We must collaborate or perish – across borders, cultures, disciplines, and firms, and increasingly with masses of people at one time.
The principle: we all have to work “together” to build the future. And even though we each work in a specific job, or in a specific company, the growing reality is that we are free agents. For an increasing number of people each year, we have no idea where we will be working, for whom we will be working, this time next year. Job security is a thing of the past.
So collaboration is needed for two reasons: to succeed at any and every task we tackle, because “we” are smarter than “me” – and, to build that network of connections that we will all need, probably over and over again, to find and open that next work and life opportunity.
With whom shall we all collaborate? Recognize that anyone and everyone (from anywhere and everywhere) can be a collaboration partner. Thus we need to practice generalized reciprocity – “pay it forward;” “be generous.”
And in this collaborative era, we collaborate because it helps people, and it is the “right” thing to do. We do not collaborate to “get credit.” In fact, we don’t care who gets the credit — we share the credit, freely and generously. The result is what matters.
It truly is the collaborative era.
Here is an excerpt from article written by Rita McGrath for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
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One of the great things about my job is that I get to observe the practices of many companies. If they’re working with me, chances are that growth and innovation are somewhere on their agenda. And when it is, I’m sure to make the point that taking an innovation from a concept to an actual business launch requires at least three types of leaders.
First, at the top, innovation leaders need to:
• define the territory that the company should be exploring,
• make sure that organizational systems support innovation, and
• draw the distinction between practices that are appropriate for business-as-usual and those that make sense for more uncertain environments.
In particular, “patient impatience” and creating the momentum for people to try new things are key. A leader who exemplifies these practices is A.G. Lafley, formerly of P&G. Among the things he did to get practical innovation on the agenda were mandating that 50% or more of ideas had to originate outside the company, and repeating, over and over, that “the customer is boss.”
Second, at the level of an actual venture, leaders often need to be somewhat unorthodox, with laser-sharp focus on overcoming the obstacles that stand between where they are and where they feel the business could go. These leaders do not put up with bureaucracy and effectively brush aside obstacles to get what they need, and that can rub a lot of corporate types the wrong way. Actually, it can drive them crazy.
Third are the unsung heroes of the innovation process are often the middle managers who somehow bring together the vision and direction at the top of the organization with the energy and breakthrough thinking at the entrepreneurial level. A huge part of this job is political, and if it’s not handled well, there won’t be much innovation. While lots of people seem to recognize this, regrettably few companies monitor, train, or reward middle managers for skillful political work. Indeed, as many have observed , it is often not in their own best interest to drive innovations: they do better financially and personally by supporting the status quo.
It was heartening, therefore, to see a recent article in BusinessWeek [click here] citing the efforts of Gary Martz, a senior product manager in Intel’s wireless products unit. Wireless Display, or WiDi, was the technology Martz championed with great skill. Faced with internal opposition from others who doubted that the technology would ever deliver a satisfactory user experience, Martz could have gone back to his desk and forgotten about it. Instead, he decided to engage in positive politics. He took early versions of the invention to PC makers all over the world and to Best Buy. The technology, which allows you to zap sound and images from your laptop to a television, had sufficient customer appeal that Martz was able to use the positive response to overcome internal objections. Earlier this week, Intel executives were quoted as saying that WiDi is the “next must-have” feature in personal computing.
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To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
Rita McGrath studies innovation, corporate venturing and entrepreneurship. She is well-known for developing practical tools and frameworks to make the innovation process less risky and difficult, and to bring a dose of reality to growth programs. She works extensively with leadership teams in Global 1,000 companies, and is a popular speaker. Her co-authored books include The Entrepreneurial Mindset (2000), MarketBusters: 40 Strategic Moves that Drive Exceptional Business Growth (2005), and Discovery-Driven Growth: A Breakthrough Process to Reduce Risk and Seize Opportunity (2009). In her position as a Columbia Business School professor, Rita McGrath directs and teaches in its top ranked Executive Education programs.
To check out her website and the abundance of resources provided, please click here.
In the first chapter, Rita Gunther McGrath and Ian MacMillan explain that their core thesis is that companies that use conventional methodologies to pursue exceptional growth will simply not be able to accomplish growth that allows them to break out of the pack and deliver exceptional results.” If so, what do they recommend? What they call “discovery-driven planning” that will guide and inform the introduction of new growth initiatives (e.g. businesses, products, services, franchises, strategic alliances, and even potential mergers and acquisitions). “Through discovery-driven planning (DDP),” McGrath and MacMillan point out, “organizations set up bold plans to pursue futures they frame, to learn where their futures lie, and to test their assumptions about those futures at the lowest possible cost.”
In Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, Jeanne Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson suggest that, until now , research and executive education have failed to make a breakthrough in understanding and improving IT architecture efforts. They then recall Albert Einstein’s observation, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” What do the authors recommend? “The focus needs to be higher – on enterprise architecture, the organizing logic for core business processes and IT infrastructure reflecting the standardization and integration of a company’s operating model…[Therefore] enterprise architecture boils down to these two concepts: business process integration and business process standardization. In short, enterprise architecture is not an IT issue – it’s a business issue.” In Chapter Five, when suggesting how to design the business model architecture, McGrath and MacMillan seem to agree with Ross, Peter Weill, and Robertson that a specific project not only can but should be evaluated within an overall strategic framework the foundation and “the fundamental architecture of a discovery-driven plan is established with the selection of a business unit that will drive the revenue and profits of the business.”
In my review of McGrath and Macmillan’s previous collaboration, MarketBusters (2005), I noted that “the core of this book involves five strategies to create “marketbusters”: Transform the customers’ experience, transform your offerings, redefine profit drivers, exploit industry shifts, and consider entering (for you) new markets. No news there. The value of this book is derived from McGrath and MacMillan’s explanations of (a) HOW to select the strategies which are most appropriate to your organization’s current and imminent needs and (b) WHAT to do when coordinating those strategies with tactics (or `moves’) during the implementation process.” They urge those who read Discovery-Driven Growth to consult the list in the earlier book or visit http://www.discoverydrivengrowth.com to complete an exercise that identifies the key metrics that are most relevant to their own industry. In my opinion, the selection of appropriate metrics and then applying them with seamless consistency is of critical importance to any growth initiatives.
Once these initiatives are launched and begin to achieve measurable progress, how to sustain them while – meanwhile – making necessary modifications, except of the metrics? McGrath and MacMillan devote the final chapter to answering that question. To set the context within which everyone involved will pursue and commit to discovery-driven behavior, they suggest six sets of actions to be taken by the CEO and other members of the senior team. They conclude their book with an expressed hope that the information and counsel they provide will give C-level executives the processes needed to “free up the creativity” in their organization “without “going down the black hole of undisciplined innovation”; to give a division or business unit head some ideas to consider about formulating and then implementing a “stealth” strategy for bringing discovery-driven principles to bear; and to provide to a less experienced manager some techniques to help them think “more sharply and with more discipline about the things that [their] bosses are worried about.” I share these fervent hopes as well as the last: “And for the entrepreneur in many of us, discovery-given growth can provide road map to a successful business future. Best of luck.”