Here is an excerpt from an article written by Morten T. Hansen and Scott Tapp 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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Companies need an executive responsible for integrating the enterprise — a Chief Collaboration Officer (CCO). Increasingly, companies are embracing collaboration as part of their strategy to grow, by cross-selling products to existing customers and innovating through the recombination of existing technologies. But this won’t work unless employees work effectively across silos — across sales offices, business units, sales, product development, and marketing.
And who’s in charge of such an effort? In most companies today, senior executives are still responsible for their
unit — sales, marketing, HR, division A, division B. Yes, they are told to be team players and work with their peers. But that is often not enough. You need someone to look after the whole, by taking a holistic view of what is needed to get employees to work across silos.
You may say, “sure, that’s the CEO’s role.” True. But the CEO cannot afford to spend too much time on it. The CEO needs someone more dedicated to the effort — a Chief Collaboration Officer. So who should that be? We’re not proposing a new person — yet another (expensive) executive in the C-suite. We think that a current C-level executive should assume the mantle. Here are five candidates:
The current CIO. This is a perfect area for the Chief Information Officer to go beyond IT, step up, and take an enterprise-wide view. If you’re a CIO looking to broaden your role and drive value across the company, this is your opportunity.
The current HR head. Good collaboration requires the right incentives, performance evaluations, promotion criteria, and people development. So it’s only natural for the head of HR to take on the CCO role; that entails going beyond HR issues and working with others, such as the CIO, to craft a holistic solution.
The current COO. Of course, if your company has a COO that oversees many parts of the business, adding the Chief Collaboration Officer role is a natural extension.
The current CFO. Now, this is less obvious. Why get the numbers person on board here? Well, collaboration is first and foremost about creating economic value; it’s a strategic search for good cross-company projects. Many CFOs also oversee the strategy department, so why not add cross-company strategic activities to the portfolio?
The current head of strategy. Good collaboration means finding and prioritizing areas of synergy, an exercise well suited for the executive responsible for the overall strategy of the firm.
Other candidates may also exist, such as Chief Technology Officers in high-tech companies. Some senior executives are less suited for the job: head of sales, head of countries, and business unit heads. They tend to be too focused on their primary role.
So what should a Chief Collaboration Officer do?
Let’s say Brian, the current CIO, assumes the role. First, Brian needs to work with the CFO and head of strategy to identify the strategic opportunities for collaboration across the company — that is, to establish the business case for collaboration. He also needs to involve business unit leaders and head of sales to craft goals related to collaboration initiatives — for example, how much sales they will generate. Then Brian needs to walk over to the head of HR to make sure that performance evaluations, bonuses, and promotions are depended on good collaborative behaviors. That is, he needs to align the entire organization to realize the business case.
Soon Brian will discover the truth about the Chief Collaboration Office role: while he is responsible for driving the collaboration effort, he needs to do so by working with his peers. His job is to craft a holistic solution to collaboration, one that involves strategy, HR, product development, sales solutions, marketing, and IT. In short, he needs to be a masterful collaborator. Choosing a CCO is less about which role a person currently occupies and more about whether he or she has the skills. Pick the best collaborator.
So, do you think you need a Chief Collaboration Officer, and who do you think it should be?
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Morten T. Hansen is a management professor at University of California, Berkeley, and INSEAD, France, and the author of Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity and Reap Big Results (Harvard Business Press). Scott Tapp is Senior Vice President and General Manager for Global Collaboration Services at PGi.
To check out my interview of Hansen, please click here.
On Tuesday [February 9, 2010], President Obama strode into the White House Briefing Room, surprising the reporters there. He had just held the first of a new string of meetings — a bipartisan gathering involving congressional leaders from both parties (the big one, on health care, is set for February 25). This is a good effort, but it comes a year late. Obama came into office promising to end the politics of division. A year later, it seems we have more division and less collaboration.
It’s a lesson in how not to collaborate, and it applies equally to business leaders. All leaders and managers can learn from five key mistakes made by the White House:
[Note: Here is the first. You can read the complete article by visiting email@example.com.]
1. Wrong language by the rank-and-file. President Obama says many of the right things about the need for bipartisanship and collaboration. But his team does not follow suit. Rahm Emanuel, most notably, is often making news with heated rhetoric, most recently when he called people with whom he disagreed “F—ing retarded” (and they were Democrats!). As I argue in my book Collaboration, how leaders talk matter a great deal. In a fascinating experiment at Stanford University, students played a game where they chose to cooperate or compete. When it was called “the community game,” given the impression that it was about cooperation, 70 percent chose to cooperate. When it was called “the Wall Street game,” suggesting market competition, 70 percent chose to compete — the exact opposite! Rhetoric shapes behaviors.
To get people motivated to collaborate, you need to talk the language of collaboration, all the time. And you can’t extol it one day and then say something differently another day. The White House can learn from the example of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California who came into office calling his opponents “girlie men.” That rhetoric led to even more division, but once he cooled the rhetoric, he was able to get a lot done by collaborating.
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Had President Obama and his team avoided these five missteps and practiced the five corresponding good collaborative practices, things may have looked differently today. But there is still time to practice good collaboration, for all of us.
Examine your own organization: do you have compelling unifying goals that unite people from different units? As a leader, do you set a tone that invites collaboration? Do you foster real debate early in the process, reach out to those who disagree, and stay hands-on in major initiatives? And — when the process stalls — have you been willing to make hard choices?
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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 Daily Alerts, please visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Morten T. Hansen is the author of Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results. He is a management professor at University of California, Berkeley, School of Information.
Morten T. Hansen is a professor at University of California, Berkeley, and at INSEAD, France. He was previously a professor at Harvard Business School for a number of years. Prior to joining Harvard University, Hansen obtained his Ph.D. from the business school at Stanford University. In addition to his academic career, Hansen was a management consultant with the Boston Consulting Group in the London, Stockholm and San Francisco offices. A native of Norway, Hansen holds a Master’s degree in finance from London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. in Business Administration from Stanford University where he was a Fulbright scholar.
Morris: Before discussing your recently published book, Collaboration, a few general questions. First, please explain how you became involved with Jim Collins and the research that preceded the publication of Built to Last, which he co-authored with Jerry Porras. Also, what were your responsibilities?
Hansen: I was working at BCG and was looking for an interesting project for a year to put to use the Fulbright scholarship that I had obtained. A project at Stanford called “visionary companies” caught my eyes. It looked really interesting, so I called Jerry Porras and joined that project for a year to work on some of the case studies in the data set. That project turned into Built to Last.
Morris: You continued that association prior to the publication of Good to Great. During the course of your involvement in the research for both books, were there any head-snapping revelations? If so, what were they and what did you learn from each?
Hansen: Jim Collins and I have stayed close friends ever since. We enjoy discussing problems and tackling big questions on management. Jim embarked on the Good to Great research project and I provided some advice, especially on methods. I think it is a very rigorous project with sound methods. I think one revelation post-publication is interesting: you can become great, then lose it quite quickly, especially in turbulent times. Some people — mistakenly — think that the findings of what makes a company go from good to great are invalidated if the companies then fall back to good (or worse, bankrupt). But that does not make sense: greatness, once attained, can be quickly lost. We see that in all walks of life and in the arts, for example. The great opera singer Maria Callas turned great, then lost her top notch performance prematurely. But she was still great before that, for a while. Greatness may be a bit like trust: it takes a lot of hard work to build, but it can quickly evaporate if you’re not diligent all the time. Jim has documented this really well in his new small book, How the Mighty Fall. It looks at how greatness can be lost, or perhaps more importantly, how a slide can be avoided and corrected before it is too late.
What this shows is that greatness is a complicated and fascinating topic that requires many studies to understand. Jim and I are writing a new book on the topic, asking an additional question: how do you become great in an uncertain and unforgiving world?
Morris: Knowledge management is a subject of special interest to me. Hence this question: What are codification and personalization of information and why is each important?
Hansen: That’s a great question, Bob. It strikes at the heart of IT systems and social media in companies. Some information can be captured in writing without losing its meaning (e.g., a map telling you how to get somewhere). The power of that is that the information therein can be decoupled from the author and disseminated electronically, to everyone, across the world. In contrast, some information is highly tacit, meaning it cannot be fully articulated and certainly not in writing (e.g., knowing how to ride a bike). That requires practice, mentorship, instruction, and detailed explanation. Tacit knowledge requires direct person-to-person contact (personalization) to be transferred properly. That’s why we need interpersonal relationships and networks. Now, some of those could be done online, as when an expert surgeon uses tele-medicine to beam into the operating room remotely to provide advice to another surgeon. But it still requires a direct personal link.
Morris: Several years ago, you wrote an article that appeared in Harvard Business Review in which you discussed the “networked incubator.” Here are two separate but related questions: What is it, and, to what extent is this model compatible with the “open” business models that Henry Chesbrough and others advocate?
Hansen: As you know, Hank and I were co-authors on that article. The ideas of a networked incubator and open innovation are quite similar. Hank has taken those ideas much further since then and has done a great job in articulating the idea of open innovation (in fact, coining the term). The essence of a networked incubator is to draw upon ideas from outside a startup team, such as technologies, customer access, and so on. An incubator is basically an organization that helps startups do that, but other forms of organizations do the same. Good venture capitalists help their startups access those resources, as do a good new business development function inside a large company.
Morris: In your opinion, what are the most common reasons for the failure of business teams?
Hansen: There is no one reason why business teams fail. Academic research reveals a number of factors, including lack of a clear objective, infighting, poor talent, and so on. Another reason is insulation: teams oftentimes ought to reach out and work with others, yet they fail to do so. For example, they may suffer from the not-invented-here syndrome, believing that people outside the team have anything to contribute. So they don’t collaborate, and they sometimes do worse as a result.
Chesbrough is Adjunct Professor, Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and is Executive Director of its Center for Open Innovation. His landmark book Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology (2003) articulated a new paradigm for industrial research and development. His most recent book Open Business Models: How to Thrive in the New Innovation Landscape (2006) carries the open approach a step further, arguing that business models themselves need to become more open. Innovating business models requires open technology strategies, but also new approaches to managing intellectual property as well.
Here is a brief excerpt from my interview of Chesbrough.
Morris: For those who have not as yet read any of your articles or books, please provide a brief explanation of what the “open business model” is and why you consider it preferable to more traditional (“closed”) models.
Chesbrough: Open Innovation is based on the fundamental idea that useful knowledge is now widespread. No one company has a monopoly on great ideas, and every company, no matter how effective internally, needs to engage deeply and extensively with external knowledge networks and communities. A company that practices open innovation will utilize external ideas and technologies as a common practice in their own business and will allow unused internal ideas and technologies to go to the outside for others to use in their respective businesses.
The reason that this is preferable to the more traditional, closed model is that this open approach corresponds much more closely to the state of knowledge in most industries today. Traditional approaches require too much money, too much time, and carry too much risk for the innovating firm. Open approaches can perform better on all three dimensions.
Morris: Here’s a related question. What are “outside-in” and “in-side out” ideas? Also, why are both types needed?
Chesbrough: “Outside-in ideas” refers to bringing in external ideas into one’s own innovation process. A chemicals company might partner with a university professor to conduct some research on a new kind of material (say, from nanotechnology). If the research goes well, the company might choose to license it from the professor’s university, hire the professor as a consultant, transfer the technology inside, and begin to incorporate that material with other technologies inside the company.
“Inside-out ideas” refers to the alternative case where a company has developed an idea or technology that it isn’t using internally, and lets it go to the outside, through licensing, or a spin-off company, or a joint research project or collaboration.
Morris: What are some of the most common misconceptions about what innovation is…and isn’t? For example, many executives think of innovation wholly in terms of high technology.
Chesbrough: Innovation is not simply about invention, though they are often used as synonyms in casual conversation. Innovation requires taking something through to the market, and solving a customer’s problem with it. In my latest book, Open Business Models, I argue that business models themselves are ripe for innovation, though there are many barriers to doing that.
Morris: Jim Collins has suggested how a good company can become a great company. How can a company “open up” its business model? More specifically, by what process can that be achieved?
Chesbrough: Yes, this what I was just talking about. Business models perform two crucial business tasks: they create value in a value chain, and they capture a piece of that value for the innovating firm. Opening up the business model can actually increase the ability to do both tasks better. More open value creation leverages the generative power of people and communities all over the world. And more open value capture can stimulate novel ways to profit from this generative force, whether it be through standards, intellectual commons areas, or stimulating greater competition and innovation in ways that effectively lower your own costs.
The process of innovating business models, though, is more problematic. In my observations and discussions with companies, I find most lack any effective process for experimenting with their business models. The business manager or general manager is typically on a 2-3year rotation, which is not enough time to run the tests, gather the results, understand their meaning, launch some initiatives, see which ones work, and scale up the most promising. And many others must be involved, so functional leaders like the VP of Engineering or R&D or Marketing lacks the charter to drive the development of a new business model.
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