Tag Archives: collaboration

Making Waves: Learning to Innovate in the Flow of Insight

Are we losing insights in the flow?

Insights flow past us, faster than we dare notice; what are we leaving behind?

[Note: This original content has also been posted at http://innochat.com/ with permission of the author, to facilitate a conversation at the #innochat hashtag on THURS 4/17 at 12pm ET.]

CHARLOTTE, NC. April 2014, by .  Classic innovation practice tells us to catalog and rank our ideas. It’s a time tested way to surface newer, more creative means for getting a job done. It’s a sensible approach. The big ideas should, by all rights, float to the top.

But what happens when the currents of change are strong? What if the rules for success become fluid?

At a minimum, we’ll struggle to keep our bearings. At worst, we’ll lose momentum, leave our best ideas stranded, and fail to achieve our innovation targets.

I’ve been reflecting on an alternative approach to learning and innovating that is at once more simplistic and more complex. In a word, it involves “flow” .. and it starts with suspending judgment, refocusing, and listening. This approach allows raw insights, not shrink-wrapped ideas, to flood our thinking spaces, using notions like cross-over and edge-exploration to mix things up. Patterns replace processes. Simple rules replace best practices.

And we change the currency. Insights are the gold standard for innovation and creative learning, not ideas.

The ability of the human mind to perceive and solve problems is vast. Effective collaboration serves as a multiplier. Put some of those strong minds together into small teams. Help those thinkers to focus and frame and communicate and synthesize in real time. Pay attention to roles. Seed the group with an iterative, adaptive framing model. Then stand back. Powerful things begin to happen. 

New ideas emerge; we find we’re innovating in the moment.

Of course, the modern organization provides a host of formiddable barriers to this. These include all those cultures, behaviors and silos that seek to control. We find orgs that are consumed by process or paralyzed by aversion to risk. And at times, we aren’t helpful: our hyper-structured methodologies serve to put our best thinking into boxes. No surprise that our latest innovations seem like breakthrough candidates from the past: we use the past to classify them.

When trapped in structured models, there is limited or no flow of insight. Innovation will consistently struggle. It’s time to let the insights flow. Consider the notions pictured here:

 

FIG 9. Visualizing the Flow of Insights, in "The DNA of Collaboration" (2012)

FIG 9. Visualizing the Flow of Insights, in “The DNA of Collaboration” (2012)

What can we make of this?

I think there are several important questions that could help us suspend our assumptions about innovation practice, as we discuss new ways to approach old problems:

  • Q1. How do ideas differ from insights, and why does it matter?
  • Q2. In terms of innovation process, is flow a better metaphor than structure? 
  • Q3. When does collaborative innovation or OI move of us toward flow, and when does it not?
  • Q4. Can “flow of insight” be viable for driving new thinking re: new capabilities?

Let’s discuss these questions at #INNOCHAT on Thursday 4/17 at 12pm ET. I look forward to exchanging insights with you. Maybe we’ll make some waves.

I hope to see you online!

Chris aka @sourcepov


ADDITIONAL READING

Ideas come from many places, and some of the concepts discussed here had their roots in Twitter conversations. I’m grateful to the many #INNOCHAT, #SMCHAT and #CDNA thought leaders who contributed to these (and related) concepts about collaboration and social learning.  For more reading, here are some references from The DNA of Collaboration :


Building Social Capital: Can Leaders Play?

Over on the @sourcepov blog, I posted tonight about Building Social Capital.  In that post, a question is framed quite simply: “Can Leaders Play?”  There’s a call to action for leadership from the rank and file, not unlike Seth Godin’s argument in Tribes, testing our courage to step forward and engage with others.

So what about corporate leaders, as we look INSIDE the organization?

Is there not potential for Social Capital to emerge there?  And the related question still applies:  “Can Leaders Play?”

Often it seems our corporate leaders are removed from the fray of social interconnections in the organization, though that very dynamic – people connecting with people – remains one of the most powerful ways to foster organic innovation.

Collaboration, at its core, is about the trusted exchange of ideas in pursuit of even better ideas.  It has implications to corporate governance and strategy.

It seems executives would want to be onto this.

Here, and in the upcoming CDNA chat, we’ll look at the internal leadership angle, as we drive conversation on the role of corporate leaders in building Social Capital across the enterprise.  We’ll start with some definitions, then look to understand what needs to happen in the modern learning organization.

  • Q1. Define. If Social Capital is “building engagement skills & trusted networks to drive value” why wouldn’t leaders care?
  • Q2. Context. Would corporte leaders buy-in to building Social Captial like they might for Human or Intellectual Capital?  Why or why not?
  • Q3. Semantics. What will it take for corporate leaders to embrace “social anything” in the enterprise?
  • Q4. Synthesis. Is Social Capital part of that solution?

We’ll hope you’ll join us, MONDAY 8pET at hashtag CDNA.  We’re monthly now.  That means we’ve been saving up for even more in-depth analysis on topics that matter.  We hope you’ll join us.

- Chris Jones, and the DNA of Collaboration Team, tweeting from @CollabDNA


Would You Recognize a Collaborative Leader?

What happens when nobody stands out from the crowd?

What happens when nobody stands out from the crowd?

Great leaders can be found in many places and many companies. Some of have spent careers fine tuning their portfolio of interpersonal skills so that they’ll be effective when the going gets tough. But let’s face it. Knowing where to turn for unique leadership skills can be a challenge.

It’s often difficult to find “the real thing” among a crowded field of would-be originals.

To shed some new light on what it means to be a collaborative leader, let’s ask a few questions to help bring the seach into better focus.  For starters, let’s take a look at the foundational semantics, and some of the critical dynamics that we think are important in this space.
  • Q1. Skills. What are the key skills that a collaborative leader must possess?
  • Q2. Styles. In “Primal Leadership” (2002), Goleman calls for adopting  1 of 6 styles: visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pace setting, commanding. Which apply here?
  • Q3. Behaviors. How can we recognize a collaborative leader from among others who are less collaborative?
  • Q4. Mindset. How can leaders adopt a collaborative mindset?

As we review the complex and evolving Team Dynamics (Ch.15) in The DNA of Collaboration, again and again we find leaders must play key roles to guide organizations through collaborative processes.  This discussion is a starting point for more to follow.

We look forward to your insight on this important thread.

Chris Jones @sourcepov


The Courage to Collaborate [FRI 4/26 CBODN 2013 Conference, Arlington VA]

The Courage to Collaborate

Join the conversation: Friday April 26th 1p at GMU Founder’s Hall, Arlington VA

Organizations in the 21st century have grown increasingly risk averse, causing many people inside them to take a defensive view of the world.

Small wonder that collaboration – the open exchange of ideas in an effort to solve problems – has a grown increasingly difficult.  More and more we hear about collaboration and it’s benefits, via sage advice from outsiders and edicts from above.  But there’s a simple question facing us.  It often goes unasked and stays unanswered.

Do we have the courage to collaborate?

On Friday April 26th, at the Chesapeake Bay OD Network (CBODN) 2013 Annual Conference, from 1-2:15 pm, James Alexandar and I are taking on this topic.  The conference theme is “Courageous Leadership” and it explores how OD practitioners must challenge what we think we know about achieving success in the 21st century organization.

I’m Chris Jones, @sourcepov from Twitter, and I’ll be heading up from Charlotte to join in the conversation.

James and I will explore a variety of the key elements in the equation, but ultimately we’ll focus in on Culture, lack of Trust and Fear.  These elements invariably shape and constrain behaviors in today’s organizations, in spite of efforts in the opposite direction.  Most of the time, the odds seem stacked against us.  The ability to take on the challenges requires an immense amount of courage.  Success requires leaders who are willing and able to release their death grip on control.  The discussion on Friday will explore some core precepts of OD, then tackle the implications of key barriers.  Then we’ll share some very specific insights on how collaboration accelerates in a high-trust, low-fear workplace, giving participants hands on experience with collaboration in an open exchange.  We’ll navigate from a “risk averse” mindset to a “risk-enabled” one, tapping ideas from my book The DNA of Collaboration: Unlocking the Potential of 21st Century Teams.

Continue reading


Pathways: In Search of Collaborative Learning (4 Key Threads)

In search of Collaborative Learning

In search of Collaborative Learning

As our CDNA conversation on “Learning to Learn” continues, we’ve begun to turn up a variety of leads in our search for the path forward, including barriers and enablers.  To many, the holy grail of organizational learning seems to be hidden from view .. though many in our crew have ventured far to find it ..

We will continue our search, but we’ll pause now and again to deep dive on what we’ve uncovered to date.

All of the topics here were surfaced in our “open mic” on FEB 4 [transcript].

  • Q1. Time.  The enemy is necessity & our daily demands; one learning goal is time to explore. Can collaborators manufacture more time? [Kim]
  • Q2. Leadership. The ability to inspire greatness, trust and action can be rare. What is it about collaborative settings that spawns the opportunity? [Scott]
  • Q3. Deep Connection. “Intermingling” seems to be a great source of emergent insight. What conditions encourage it? [Astrid]
  • Q4. Possibility. Beyond strategy and planning? The realm of hope, faith, serendipity, opportunity .. how might we get in touch with them? [Paul]

We will press ahead soon, but with these insights surfaced, it seems prudent to stop and reflect .. if not fully understand .. the factors we’ve surfaced already.  After all, “synthesis” has been a key critical thinking step since Descartes .. and in @CollabDNA, it’s Ch.16, Step 6 ..

Navigating the Spiral

Navigating the Spiral

One of the key takeaways from our 2/18 chat was the discussion of a “spiral” methodology for traversing challenges vs. a more linear progression down or across our framework.  To advance that thinking and apply it a bit, let’s reflect on the double helix model of DNA as inspiration, as we explore “Navigating the Spiral:  How do we Keep Our Bearings?”.  8pET on 2/25 at #CDNA.

We’d love your thoughts here, as comments .. or in our Twitter Chat, Monday 8pET.  Most will use tweetchat to make the connection.

See you online.

Chris aka @sourcepov


Many Dimensions of Collaborative Learning: Where Are the Synergies?

Even on our worst days, we’re learning.  It’s a skill hard-coded within the human DNA for survival.  But in the context of education and business learning agendas, perhaps we can raise the stakes a bit, if ask this non-rhetorical question:  how could we get better at learning how to learn?

As we attack this in the early months of 2013, I thought it might be useful to look at how learning is approached in a variety of different disciplines, to see where we might find common themes.  This graphic was designed to get us thinking … and talking ..

I’ve attacked many of these topics in The DNA of Collaboration, especially as they pertain to Culture.  Over in the #K12 #ECOSYS chat community, we’re about to do a deeper dive on the K12 Advanced Learning Models.

In the meantime, lets keep the #CDNA conversation at a higher level for now, to explore the broadest synergies.  As we look across disciplines, what might we gain?  Here’s the chat format for the next several weeks at #CDNA, starting MON JAN 7 8pET.

To get started, we’ll walk down the chart, one row at a time, with these questions:

  • Q1.  What are the most common, fundamental, intrinsic drivers of human learning?
  • Q2. Who or what are the most important catalysts and motivators for this learning, over time?
  • Q3. What can we learn from traditional classroom methods across K12, HigherED & Business?
  • Q4. What advanced learning methods may be most interesting in this analysis?

I hope you find the frame as intriguing as I did, when we started talking about it on Twitter in December.  Interesting comments sprang from both my own sourcepov blog and our own new CDNA G+C Community “Collaboration DNA”.

I hope you’ll share your feedback with us, as we explore each impact vector (row) and discipline (column) in turn.

Our goal?  To rigorously explore the possibilities of Learning How to Learn.  You might say we’re using critical thinking to better understand and raise the bar on .. okay, you guessed it .. our capacity for critical thinking.

See you online.

Chris


It’s Your Move: Finding Balance in the Collaborative Flow (Ch.17)

In the game of chess, every move brings important decisions. Is it best to advance, and stake a claim to new ground? Or to retreat, consolidating gains? Taking the lead, or letting the person across the game board set the pace?

Collaboration is fraught with decisions like these, where we must decide how to engage, and then revisit those decisions again and again, making adjustments.

Much depends, of course on our intentions and the context of the situation at hand. Are we there to share and inform, or to learn? Ultimately, isn’t it some of both?

In the context of effective team dynamics, I believe we need a balanced strategy, finding the optimal place between extremes, sharing and learning in useful ways. It’s about letting the circumstance of your knowledge, the topic, and the chemistry of the group tap new, “emergent” possibilities.

As we continue to explore the dynamics of effective collaboration in The DNA of Collaboration, “Balanced Objectives” (Ch.17) asks us to consider the importance of a balanced approach, and to understand how to get there.

In our chat SAT Nov 17 11aET (click here to join), let’s unpack it like this:

  • Q1. Explore the shifting dynamic of teacher v. learner in a collaborative context.
  • Q2. As in chess, collaborators balance opportunities to advance v. consolidating gains. Can we switch often and be productive?
  • Q3. To achieve collaborative balance, must our roles keep shifting between leading and following?
  • Q4. Is there an optimal balance between structured process and a more open, creative flow?

Hope this helps bring the balancing act of collaboration a bit more into focus. It’s critical thinking at the micro level, making decisions in the moment. When it comes to solving problems in teams, paying attention to dynamics like these pays huge rewards.

Challenge me with your thoughts and ideas .. we’re all here to learn!  I’ll see you online!

- Chris Jones, author, aka @sourcepov


Synthesis in the Collaborative Flow: Why Process Matters (Ch.16)

As we move toward team dynamics that are based less on structure and more on flow, we face a dilemma. We gain the benefit of new thinking, serendipity and emerging ideas, but isn’t there danger that we lose focus?

The short answer is yes.

We must explore the need for balance points. We’ll also need a flexible lightweight process that allows us to navigate the challenges we’ll encounter. In my experience there are several ways we can enable the benefits of collaborative flow without losing our way. In today’s Book Review topic, as we explore The DNA of Collaboration Chapter 16 on Process, let’s take apart some of the most important contributing factors:

  • Step 1. Framing. We need enough structure to support a dialog, but space for it to evolve. How can we shift our facilitation thinking away from control?
  • Step 2. Guidelines & Introductions. Who is here? Why? How is this going to work?
  • Step 3. Context. We often plow into collaboration w/o thought to relevance. What are the challenges of changing context in real time, during the conversation? When should context be set? held? changed?
  • Step 4. Brainstorm & Dialog. How will we interact?
  • Step 5. Patterns. Looking for Patterns is like “mining for gold”. What practices can make this easier, more intuitive, more common?
  • Step 6. Synthesis. Aka “curation,” it’s about capture, prioritization of outcomes, and teasing out the value. Why is this so difficult? How can we get better at it?

Many who participate in the most established Twitter Chats will notice some of these elements. I believe they have evolved into their current form due to social collaboration in action. In fact, we continue to explore these dynamics at #smchat (social media), #ecosys (k12 edreform) and of course here at #cdna (collaboration practice).

Share your thoughts. Which aspects of these steps resonate? Which of these do you use most frequently?

Looking forward to our conversation. See you online.

Chris aka @sourcepov


Can Leaders Adapt? Improving Team Dynamics (Ch.15)

In a world where many if not most leaders cut their teeth as managers, it’s small wonder the bias at the top of organizations and teams is for controlling outcomes.  As we’ve discussed, there is a strong bias for structure baked into our industrial paradigm.  Most teams are run with the precision of factories.

Can leaders adapt to different models? Better still, can they learn adaptive behaviors, in general?

I explore precisely that challenge in Chapter 15 of The DNA of Collaboration. In our virtual book tour, we’ll explore some of the key concepts:

  • Q1. Viewing leadership as an art, how can we change our bias from structure to flow?
  • Q2. Music and fine arts offer leaders alternative views to how things work; can we borrow a stage, brush or canvas?
  • Q3. One goal of any team is affinity, aka common ground: how fast can we get there?
  • Q4. Diversity is key as well. Does our affinity goal represent a paradox?
  • Q5. In a high stakes world, how can leaders, like artists, learn to let go, experiment, take risks?

Hope you’ll join us SAT 11/3 11am ET. We use hash tag #cdna. You can click here at the appointed hour to join the conversation using TweetChat.

Hope to see you there.

- Chris Jones, aka @sourcepov, author


Who’s Role is it Anyway? Dynamics of Effective Collaboration (Ch.14)

Promo image from "Whose Line is it Anyway?" courtesy ABC

Promo image from “Whose Line is it Anyway?” courtesy ABC

When we come together as a team, whether instinctively or out of habit, we tend to gravitate to natural roles that we find comfortable, whether as contributors or listeners, active participants or passive observers, leaders or supporting cast.  Depending on the group, there can be lots in play at once, but we tend to overlook the dynamics.

Consider an improv comedy troupe performing live, or a band working out tracks in a recording studio.  What’s really happening?  Can we tease out more explicit roles that influence our collaborative results?  I think we can.  Too often we don’t put thought into the kinds of participation we really need.  We discussed this last fall in our KM World W5 work session and explored the dynamics still further here in Charlotte at our QCF “New Thinking” workshop (slides).

Let’s keep the exploration going.

The #CDNA Crew has launched a new series MONDAYs at 8pET on Key Roles in Collaboration.  It’s the focus of Chapter 14 in The DNA of Collaboration (in softcover or Kindle on Amazon) and it’s almost always a conversation that strikes a chord.

In the weeks ahead, we’ll attack these roles, one by one, to see what we might learn:

  • Q1. Catalyst. In what ways can we spark new thinking in our discussions?
  • Q2. Connector. What happens when we connect ideas during a collaborative session or chat? And to make this happen more, what are:  (a.) key initial conditions? (b.) supporting behaviors? (c.) times they add most value? (d.) situations when their role is most important?
  • Q3. Aggregator/Curator. Often this means lots of work. How can we make the capture/takeaways of ideas more interesting?
  • Q4. Moderator/Planner. What skills make these leadership role effective?
  • Q5. Analyst. How do we make time for facts, data, and critical thinking?
  • Q6. Challenger. Can we take issue in constructive ways, without coming across as a naysayer?
  • Q7. Designer. What is the potential for truly creative thinking? Does a meeting afford enough “white space” for this?
  • Q8. Historian/Researcher. How can these important activities happen in real time?
  • Q9. Referee. Is there a place for (simple) rules, and how do we ensure healthy boundaries?
  • Q10. Practitioner. What’s the best way to engage the hands-on folks that practice what’s being discussed?
  • Q11. Expert/SME. These folks often kill collaboration with the weight of their knowledge; how can this be avoided?
  • Q12. Did we leave out any roles? If so, which ones, and why?

I’ll be posting takeaways as comments to this post, but I’d really appreciate it if you’d do the same.  The value is in our diverse perspectives ..

Again, hope to see you guys for the conversation MONDAYs 8pET using hash tag #cdna .. many folks use Tweetchat (link).  See you there.  What role will you play?

Chris aka @sourcepov


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