Collaboration is not about gluing together existing ideas. It’s about creating ideas that didn’t exist until everyone entered the room.
In early 2015 I was approached by a number of Rotary International’s key leaders to form part of a strategic planning committee tasked with mapping out Rotary’s future. As an organization that is well over a century old, Rotary’s 1.2 million members have had a phenomenal impact on the globe (including the near-eradication of Polio). However, the organization has languished in recent years as it has struggled to clearly define what a 21st century service movement should look like.
As part of a recent gathering of this strategic planning committee, we reviewed a simple but brilliant TED talk by business strategist Knut Hannes.
What struck me most about Haanaes’s message was the simple way he described some of the common dynamics that can cause an organization to fail. In short, he said that every leader and organization committed to maintaining growth and vitality must strike a balance between two things:
Innovation is often thought of in terms of creation and invention – coming up with new ideas and new solutions. However, working with clients in recent months I have discovered that often the most powerful forms of innovation are more subtle. Rather than focusing on development and discovery, the best innovations focus on incremental improvement – getting better at doing the basics and addressing the factors that negatively impact on the people we are looking to serve and impress. Factors often referred to as friction.
In the late 16th century, a medical student in the Italian city of Pisa observed a swinging chandelier with interest. Later, after scrutinizing a collection of chandeliers of all shapes and sizes arcing from left to right the student, one Galileo Galilei, concluded that whatever their form or size, chandeliers take roughly the same time to complete one arc.
Galileo's subsequent experiments led to theories that rocked the prevalent school of thought in Europe at the time – namely that the universe revolved around the Earth.