Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Discover Collaboration

Thomas L. Freidman’s 9/15/2013 NYT column titled, When Complexity is Free (How the World of Work is Changing), gave examples of how global American companies “are using collaboration to push out the boundaries…” It cited a recent story from G.E.’s Luana Iorio who oversees research on G.E’s three-dimensional printing. G.E. offered a reward to anyone in the world who could redesign a certain aircraft component that, because of its weight, adds to the fuel costs. G.E. described the conditions under which it worked and the particular function it performed. Interestingly, a majority of of entries came from people outside the aviation industry!

This is what John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, should do. He’s made no secret of the fact that he desperately wants to find a way to get his people to work together. His problem is shared by every CEO I’ve ever spoken with; it’s what keeps the folks at the top of the food chain awake at night. Specifically, they say, “When I leave the room, my team stops working together”. This is because when they leave, a load bearing wall is removed. The only person with enough power and authority to force their team to work together is the CEO. And so it is, on down the line. John, who has already invested an enormous amount of time and money, with no results to speak of and the future of his company on the line, could do just what Iorio did: Offer a reward to anyone who can solve his problem. He could describe the conditions under which it (hierarchy) works and the particular function it performs. I'm serious about this. Try it yourself. And then, he should judge the submissions for himself, paying particular attention to those that come from people outside the organization development field and those who have no vested interest in the current problem enduring (i.e., no conflict of interest). And he should test these submissions - not with years of time and millions of dollars - but with a single meeting or problem-solving effort, since these are the fundamental building blocks of all work. Go John!