Collaboration

Diverse, independent, opinionated people must collaborate for innovation to succeed.

 Many traditional initiatives treat stakeholders, other project teams, and users as if they were outside the bounds of the project.   Other people’s priorities, contributions, and effort are fixed  points which remain constant and predictable “out there”, while the real work churns on inside a technology dominated initiative.   

Cross enterprise innovation cannot exile active human collaboration this way.   People, with all their messy dynamics, must become an intimate part of the vision, design and execution.  Collaboration is necessary because:    

Learning Can’t Stop –  People need to stay involved.  The myth that requirements and constraints can be defined up front is seldom true even for simple traditional projects.  It never holds for creative innovation.  If business users, stakeholders, and vendors are kept outside the bounds of the project, there is no way for them to recognize issues, contribute insights, and validate solutions.   

Priorities Will Conflict–  Any sufficiently ambitious innovation will bring together people with different needs and priorities.  This is good.  Value comes from bridging the gaps between parts of an organization that have historically been unable to collaborate on customer value.   People need to hear and be heard. Success demands that all parties understand and buy-in, continually adjusting the projects direction and goals in an ongoing negotiation.       

Work Must Be Divided – Few solutions in the 21st Century are fully self-contained.   Components … and work … will be divided among multiple teams and vendors.   There will be no one authority to force cooperation or compliance.  Collaboration demands ongoing engagement and the skilled use of persuasion, compromise, and force.

This deeply interactive style can feel strange to technology teams.  Many technologists are uncomfortable with person to person give and take, or view it as a distraction to the real work at hand.  Often substantial skill development is needed in this area, potentially adding new roles staffed with people who naturally gravitate to these skill sets. 

Takeaway

People (must) matter.   

Good Reads

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Brainstorming Questions

  • Who has a stake in this idea?  (Not just the official Stakeholders)   Who cares?
  • Who isn’t on board?
  • Who must be bought into agreement with design choices?
  • Who is being neglected and ignored?  Who’s feeling left out?
  • How will you persuade each party to do their part?
  • How will you resolve disputes without a common boss to enforce decisions?
  • Who on the team is good with people?  Who thrives on complicated dynamics?

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