Category Archives: Thoughts
You may have played the game of “telephone” as a child. Your teacher sat the class in a circle and whispered a sentence to the first kid, who whispered it to his neighbor, and so on until the last child in the circle told the group what she thought she heard. Inevitably, this final sentence was markedly different from the original and was usually also wildly incorrect (hence the hilarity of the game).
This distortion is due to a concept called cumulative error. Organizations fall victim to the same phenomenon in innovation. When implementing new customer offerings and experiences, an original idea is often inadvertently manipulated as it moves through development. The game here is called “silos,” and it too results in cumulative error. A new concept is developed and, when ready for execution, is passed from department to department in a process not much different from “telephone”: a number of individuals, each tasked with sharing and repeating a phrase, will invariably distort it slightly as it moves along. Organizations liken this process to a manufacturing assembly line, which is effective when repeatedly producing a known item. However, when developing something new, this rigid and linear approach falters since there are no precedents for reference.
Business case developed? Yep, pass it on. Product specs outlined? I’m good, next. IT integration? On it. And so on through legal and compliance, training, and marketing.
L2L Infographic: Why Employee Recognition Is Important Infographic Courtesy of Terryberry
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Watson and Crick. Braque and Picasso. The Wright Brothers. Wozniak and Jobs … and Jony Ive. Great collaborations all. Transformative. But what really made them work? How did collaborative relationships so ingeniously amplify individual talent and impact? Was there a secret to success?
When I wrote the book Shared Minds: The New Technologies of Collaboration 25 years ago (!), I found technology central to the answers. The book was the first to explicitly examine how tools and technologies shape creative collaboration in science, business, and the arts. I argued new technology would invite and inspire new forms of collaboration. Like communication, collaboration would have to become more networked and more digital.
But what I didn’t know — and couldn’t anticipate — was how overwhelmingly collaboration’s creative past would influence its innovation future. Successful collaborators don’t just work with each other; they work together through a shared space. Shared space — whether physical, virtual or digital — is where collaborators agree to jointly create, manipulate, iterate, capture and critique the representations of the reality they seek to discover or design. This holds true for collaboration around products, processes, services, songs, or the exploration of scientific principles. Shared space is the essential means, medium, and mechanism that makes collaboration possible. No shared space? No real collaboration.