The CollaborativeEdge – Part One: The Paradox

Cap Gemini recently reported that over 80% of CEO’s they surveyed identified idea sharing as the single most important element of innovation – and yet only 16% said they had the right culture to do it. And General Electric’s (GE) survey of top global marketers revealed that whilst 86% of them agreed that partnerships were the most important element of innovation – only 21% were able to build them.  We call this ‘The Collaborative Paradox’:  there is an increasing demand for innovation, which is driven by smarter relationships – but due to a lack of internal and external collaboration skills, there is often a failure to innovate.

 The Myth Of Innovation

The biggest myth of innovation is that it is a solo game, one where you need a genius, normally the stereotypical mad inventor type who conveniently turns up to save the day. It’s a  convenient myth. If you haven’t got a boss or team member who is a genius – then it’s a good excuse why you can’t innovate. Its not your fault you havent got a Steve Jobs in the cupboard is it?

The latest research from Cap Gemini and GE reveal the truth: that most innovation is in fact a work of collaboration and sharing of ideas, not lone wolves. Writers such as Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Morten T Hansen, Gary Hamel, Tom Kelley and Lynda Gratton – have all highlighted that innovation is driven by well-managed, purposeful, effective  relationships – both internally across silos and externally – with key partner and allies.  Individual creativity and blinding insight may of course help spark an original idea – and of course we need ingenuity – but that alone doesn’t deliver the innovation.

Now, Where's The Rest Of The Clock?

The Need To Collaborate

Organisations need talented people but the real need is for them to work in what Morten Hansen calls a ‘T-Shaped’ way. ‘T-Shaped’ managers are those with a good depth of knowledge to be effective at their task (the vertical of the T) – and they combine this with an ability to work collaboratively across the business too (the horizontal arms of the T). Smart businesses find and nurture these ‘T-Shaped’ people – or coach people how to become one.

However research shows that most organisations and individuals collaborate poorly and struggle to maintain important relationships. As John Abele, the founder of Boston Scientific said in the July 2011 addition of Harvard Business Review; “I am struck by how much potentially rich collaboration are ruined by people who don’t even realise it”.

The Journal of Psychological Type has examined what makes for successful and failing business relationships – and the results are telling. They report that 44% of business relationships fail for ‘soft’ personal communications issues, a lack of trust, empathy and understanding. Only 10% of business relationship derailment is actually due to technical ability and problems.  There is not a lack of commercial ability – it’s an absence of self-awareness, conversation and smart relationship skills.

The CollaborativeEdge Programme

The recently launched CollaborativeEdge Programme is designed to sharpen up these all important collaboration skills – so clearly needed for innovation.  It’s ideal for sales, marketing, innovation & leadership teams and it focuses on key relationship management ideas & skills. It has been built by Andrew Armour, Founder of Benchstone and Stephen Hemmings – an experienced sales and leadership coach. Together, they have tailored a Programme that can enable any organisation to build collaboration skills across important teams.

In the second part of this article – I explain how CollaborativeEdge works – and why your ability to manage your key relationships may be the only unique and  career advantage – you have.

For further information please contact Andrew Armour at Benchstone.

Author: Andrew Armour

Andrew Armour is a marketing and media professional, a specialist in business partnerships and the Founder of the consulting business - Benchstone Limited. His career spans from the UK music industry to the America's Cup, from winning agency pitches to securing key digital content deals. He is married to Viv, lives in Hampshire and works in London.

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