The Power of Smart Collaboration – with Heidi K. Gardner
Studies show us that companies earn higher margins, inspire greater client loyalty, attract and retain the best talent, and gain a competitive edge when their people collaborate across functional boundaries. Yet most firms have carved up their highly specialized, professional experts into narrowly defined practice areas, and collaborating across these silos is often messy, risky, and expensive. These are just some of the challenges addressed by Harvard University Professor Heidi K. Gardner in her Washington Post bestseller Smart Collaboration – How Professionals And Their Firms Succeed By Breaking Down Silos.
Heidi K. Gardner, Ph.D., is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession and Faculty Chair of the school’s Accelerated Leadership Program and Sector Leadership Masterclass. Previously she was a professor of Organizational Behavior at Harvard Business School and has been named by Thinkers 50 as a Next-Generation Business Guru.
Today we talk about the power of smart collaboration, complex problem solving, diversity and inclusion and the two types of trust. – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
Definition Of Smart Collaboration.
Heidi K. Gardner 1:15
Thanks for having me.
James Taylor 1:17
Now, I’ve got to tell you the story about how your book came into my hands. My wife is an attorney. And she was attending the Law Society of Scotland’s annual conference a few years ago. And she picked me up a copy of your book, smart collaboration. And she gave it to me saying you bought this copy, and you gave it to me. And I wasn’t quite sure if it was because she just loved your presentation so much. Or she thought maybe I should be a better collaborator as a husband? I’m not quite sure. But I’m so glad she bought me because I’ve been really enjoying it. So you speak to a lot of professional services firms, a lot of lawyers, accounting firms?
Heidi K. Gardner 1:52
I do I do. Absolutely. So I’m on the faculty at Harvard Law School. And I teach a lot of executives there people who have been practicing law for three decades for decades, oftentimes bringing lots of experience into the classroom. But I started teaching at Harvard at the business school, and I still teach executives there. So I’m teaching across a whole array of different kinds of organizations, professional service firms, and corporates and NGOs, lots of different kinds. – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
James Taylor 2:19
Now, before we get into the kind of things within the book itself, within the smart collaboration book, tell me about the collaboration process of writing the book, what was that like?
Heidi K. Gardner 2:31
tremendous, actually, I will be the first to admit that my best ideas are never my own. That the idea was the idea for the book as well, originally, I mean, 1000 years ago, when I was back working full time at McKinsey, I had this burning question about why some of the teams I was working on and leading were so much better than others at tapping into the full range of their members expertise. I mean, some of them had, you know, we all of them had this diverse array of people, astrophysicists, and concert pianists, and lots of different backgrounds. And some of them really harnessed that diversity and came up with something phenomenal. And then other teams were solid, but they weren’t phenomenal. And when I was working there, I didn’t have the capacity to say, Hmm, let me study this at the same time I was working. So I left and I did my PhD. And that’s what I started studying. And at Harvard University, lots of people would ask me tough, tough questions, these executives who would come back and say, I’m living and breathing this day in day out, what do I do differently tomorrow? So those questions sparked this line of research. And throughout the course of writing that first book, I involved the community, I would, I would have a new research finding I head into the classroom, or I’d go up on stage in front of, you know, 300 people, and I’d make myself vulnerable, I’d say, Okay, we have this new, you know, statistical equation, and it looks like it’s telling me this, what do you think, and then people would shoot it down, and they’d come up with all these counter arguments and, and I’d be like, wow, I could study that too. And it was an amazing process. And people were incredibly generous with their intellectual inputs. And even those who were toughest on me, and challenging me, were collaborating because they were taking their unique perspectives and throwing it into the mix. And together, we were able to come up with something that none of us could have developed on our own. And, frankly, that’s our definition of smart collaboration. – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
James Taylor 4:31
Now, one of the things I liked about this book is that I can imagine Sal would probably work with some of the same law firms over the Hogan Lovells of this great international kind of law firms. And often when you deal with them, you deal with the, you know, the partners or associates, but then you also deal with the HR people kind of department as well. So this book was doing that kind of fine balance. They’re all being able to appeal to maybe very bottom line driven Partners, but also looking at the HR who are thinking about the next generation has millennial people coming into the firm as well. So first of all, let’s go to the numbers part. So that that hard bitten lawyer, that senior partner, they’re like, why should I bother about collaboration? Why can I, you know, what’s, what’s the value in it for our firm, this improving our collaboration? What would your argument and your database to that
Study Of Collaboration
Heidi K. Gardner 5:26
are very happy to get into that one, the Show Me The Money person, bring it on. It’s what I say because a lot of people talk about collaboration as a soft topic. And so we brought data and science and math and economics to the study of collaboration, we collected millions of data records, sometimes we would get the timesheet records day by day timesheet records, I mean, down to the six minute increment for lawyers. And we get 10 years worth of that data from a single law firm. And we marry it with their personnel files, and their compensation records and their billing data and their client satisfaction scores. And of course, all these were de-identified, so we were allowed to use them. But we would throw this all into these big statistical equations to measure not only who was collaborating with whom, on which clients on which deals for how long or how many years, but statistically, then we can measure the outcomes, we can say you have 600 partners. And here’s a collaboration score for each of them, and demonstrate that those who had better collaboration, better defined in lots of ways, produced higher revenues, higher profits, they had stronger client relationships, which were demonstrated through a client staying loyal to the firm, even when some of the key partners departed, we have all of the numbers here around the financial and strategic and innovation related outcomes. And that’s why we called chapter one of the book, the business case for collaboration,
James Taylor 6:58
It was good putting that one right at the start. So I think that was a very smart move on your part as well. Now you do contrast, you know, the idea of cross selling, which a lot of professional services firms will be very familiar with, you have a client and they come to you, and you’re in the US to New York office and expanding abroad. So you try and then cross sell them to your international tax person in London or Paris. So we can, we can know this, but you’re kind of talking about slightly different things, not necessarily cross selling from one partner, one part of the business to another, but a much deeper form of collaboration. – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
Heidi K. Gardner 7:34
James, I’m on a mission to eradicate the term cross selling from a professional vocabulary. And and I’ll tell you why it’s you know, as we’re doing all of this research, we’re not just studying the providers, we do equal amounts of research with the buyers of these services. So I’m out there all the time. I mean, I just wrote a book for general counsel in their legal teams, I’m out there all the time talking to the clients, of law firms of accounting firms of, you know, other kinds of professional providers, and let me let you in on a small secret, they all despise being crossed sold to, I mean, nobody likes that. And, you know, it’s the, as they say, the professional equivalent of Do you want fries with that, you know, it feels like they’ve come to order a burger, and then you’re trying to upsell them on a side dish, which might not even be good for them. And instead, what we’re talking about is not that crude. I’ve got a portfolio of products that I’m going to push at you, but rather a completely client centric view. Okay, client, let’s sit down together and understand, what are the existential, existential threats? What are the major opportunities? What are the business issues here, not the legal issues, or the tax issues or the audit issues? Not that kind of myopic one sided view of your problems, but rather, what’s the holistic, complex problem that you’re facing? Because guaranteed when somebody takes that point of view, which, frankly, is what the board’s expected their, you know, their employees, right, though the board’s expect that their general counsel or their, you know, a VP of strategy is going to have this business focused, interdependent perspective of what’s happening. And when, when you can take that bigger, wider lens on the business problem, inevitably, it cannot be solved by one person.
Heidi K. Gardner 9:33
You know, think
Heidi K. Gardner 9:34
about what’s on the mind of board members these days. You know, ESG is something that everyone’s talking about, well, that in and of itself is at least the E, the s and the G. I mean, there’s no one expert who’s in who’s in, you know, covered all of those bases, but there’s so many facets to it. And our problems these days are volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous. vuca is the acronym and because the Problems are so vuca, we really need these experts to come together in an integrated way to tackle those complex problems. It is not simply cross selling my undervalued partner over here so that they can book more time. I mean, that’s a pretty crude version. And that’s what cross selling often comes down to. – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
James Taylor 10:21
I know people like Ed catmull, from Pixar talk about this a lot, that sometimes it’s not necessary having lots of star players, but it’s about it’s like making a cake where you having a really great combination of different ingredients that complement each other soul in the sour that those different things there. In the book, you talk about these different types of collaborators why it’s so important to have? So your your your income imbalance, I guess, can you talk about those different types of collaborators in a really kind of smart team?
Heidi K. Gardner 10:50
Absolutely. And in fact, we have just launched a tool to help people understand this. And James, you were good enough to take this yourself this, what we call the smart collaboration accelerator. So what this tool is, it’s a, it’s a way to understand these different types of people, and why they’re important to collaboration. So for example, as you saw on the tool, there are these seven different behavioral dimensions that came out of the decade plus of our research, where we have a very fine grained understanding now of what are the kinds of behaviors people engage in, in the workplace that foster smart collaboration, and which ones tend to be blockers or obstacles. And we ran all of our statistics as we do, and we boiled it down to the seven different dimensions. So I observed on on your profile, that you were so kind enough to share that you are more hands off, than hands on. Right. And so that’s one of the medial dimensions. The research supports James that wherever you fall on that dimension, you can use it as a strength. Or you could overdo it or misuse it, and it would be a blocker of collaboration. So I’d love to ask you, when you think about working with other people, you’re pretty hands off on that scale. How do you think about that as a strength? You know, when is it helped you in a team that were pretty hands off?
James Taylor 12:15
Yeah, I mean, it’s a hard one. I mean, I think in a in a, especially a small team, I’m always trying to go one level back. And whether that’s through culture, through training, through kind of inspiring people try and kind of pull that go go one level back to kind of show I’m not having to be so hands on and sometimes have to jump in get very tactical, very, very detailed, other times just trying to pull back. And I think it’s interesting, you know, as I was kind of going through this, a lot of my team are in, in the Philippines. And they tend to like, management style, maybe through the education system, they actually quite like quite like a hands on system, like a style of management. What me maybe in the West I class maybe is more authoritarian style of management, which is not unnecessarily, you know, particularly enjoy doing. So I’ve had to find people in my team who can almost take on a little bit of that role being a little bit more kind of hands on because it’s a weakness. And as I identify the weak I don’t personally want to be so hands on. But I need to have someone in that team who is across everything, as you mentioned them in your different types of collaborators. Someone has across all of that. – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
Heidi K. Gardner 13:24
Yes, yes, absolutely. So bingo, you have just said, your natural tendency is to be pretty hands off. And that when it comes to collaboration, many places can be highly beneficial. It means you empower people, you bring people onto a team, and you really let them play with their strengths, you’re not going to try and get in there and meddle with what’s going on. But that same characteristic could be a weakness in certain contexts, right? where people are expecting more direction, more guidance, more input. And what’s interesting, James is you nailed it when it came to collaboration, you said, so I need somebody to do that. Now, a lot of times what people think is, therefore I need to change who I am. But that’s hard to do. Right? Going against your natural tendencies is pretty tough. And all the psychology over decades shows that when we’re under stress, and let’s face it, every press these days, when we’re under stress, it’s even harder to self regulate and be something that doesn’t come naturally.
James Taylor 14:27
And you can feel it with you. I certainly feel it you know, I was looking through this and I was thinking in terms of energy levels, where do I get more energy? Where do I get SAP from energy and having to be hands on every single day on every single thing is exhausting for me. And so I very early on realize it’s not my strong suit. So I thought like, okay, who not how, who do I need to get to fill in fill in this this role? that’s and that’s not to say, What’s nice about in this this report that you’ve kind of put together it was it was good because I can also see it’s not Not, like, don’t do any of this be completely hands off, it’s like, here are the things that you need, you can do actionable things you can do to improve, but you don’t necessarily have to be a superstar being hands on. – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
Heidi K. Gardner 15:11
That’s it exactly. And what we’re trying to get people to see through this tool is that they can play to their natural strengths. And this is really crucial when they let other people who are opposite them be their natural selves. It’s not just a nice thing to do. Like one of the dimensions is complex thinking versus concrete thinkers, the complex thinkers love to theorize and abstract and they make all of these connections across, you know, unusual things, what we might talk about innovation later. And they’re the ones who are great at the creativity part of innovation.
Heidi K. Gardner 15:47
Heidi K. Gardner 15:49
A brilliant new crazy idea is only a brilliant new crazy idea unless you can do something with it. Right? So we need concrete thinkers, the opposite from complex, the concrete pragmatists,
Heidi K. Gardner 16:01
who take those
Heidi K. Gardner 16:02
big area ideas and say, how do we create an action plan? How do we roll that out? How do we make it happen? And what I found a lot of times is those two kinds of people are like oil and water, they
Heidi K. Gardner 16:13
just want. Yeah,
Heidi K. Gardner 16:17
fingers, you know,
Heidi K. Gardner 16:17
they look down their nose at people Oh, they’re so mundane. They’re so boring. And the the concrete thinkers, you know, look at these other people, you know, when are they going to get their heads out of the clouds or get their head out of somewhere, right? And it’s like, okay, so these people are completely opposite. And there’s a risk that they simply get on each other’s nerves. But if we can help them understand that it is just as natural for this person to operate one way as it is for you to operate the opposite. When you when you buy into that, and the complex thinker, not only lets the concrete person be themselves, because it’s nice to them, or Oh, it’s politically correct to you know, have them show up authentically, blah, blah. If instead, you know, as a complex thinker, myself, I say, thank goodness, that concrete, mundane thinker is in the room, because they’ve got my back, right, don’t make sure that this conversation gets translated into action. Something really happens here. And then I can play to my strengths. And I can think about all these big, crazy theoretical ideas. And sometimes this is exactly what’s happening right now. Because I’m writing the follow up book to smart collaboration. And I take my own medicine, I brought on a co author, and he’s somebody from the FinTech world. He’s done a ton in, you know, started software companies and in banking, and I go off on these tangents about like, oh, when the research says, blah, blah, blah, and then he brings me down. He’s like, okay, how’s that going to work? How somebody’s going to use this? How are you going to write about that? And my first reaction is, Oh, come on, don’t you know, don’t drag me down. And then my next reaction is, thank God, you asked me that because you make me better. – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
James Taylor 17:56
I’m James Taylor, business, creativity and innovation keynote speaker, and this is the super creativity podcast. If you enjoy listening to conversations with creative thinkers, innovators, entrepreneurs, artists, authors, educators and performers, then you’ve certainly come to the right place. Each week we discuss their ideas, their life works, successes, failures, creative process, and much more. You’ll find show notes for today’s episode as well as free creativity training at James taylor.me. If you enjoyed listening to my conversation with Heidi Gardner, then check out my interview with Oxford University Professor Marcus du Sautoy, as we discuss art and innovation in the age of artificial intelligence, and a democratization of creative collaboration. Here is my conversation with Marcus du Sautoy, at James taylor.me. After the break, we returned to my interview with Heidi, to learn about the two types of trust. This week’s episode is sponsored by speakers, the online community for international speakers. Speakers help you launch, grow and monetize your speaking business faster than you thought possible. If you want to share your message as a highly paid speaker, then speakers you will teach you how just go to the speakers u.com to access their free speaker business training. – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
You said a word there which I think towards the end of the book, you start talking about it more and I actually wanted I don’t know if this is maybe a topic of your next book, but risk. So we spoke about risk there. In one of the things is risk seeker, risk spotter. And as I was looking for it, I was actually thinking all the research is coming out more recently about why in the last financial crash, it was so bad because we had a lot of people with the same boards, they would look the same. They were educated the same. So I actually thought this is quite an interesting tool from a risk and a diversity standpoint. And when I say diverse, I don’t just obviously mean gender or ethnicity. I’m also talking about intellectual diversity. So I thought this was really interesting thinking about, okay, this is a risk factor. There’s risk factors here that I need to be thinking about. In order to create a more sustainable type of business, – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
Heidi K. Gardner 20:02
Absolutely, James, I’m so glad you brought up risk. So we were working with my business gardener and he was working with the top 35 leaders of a huge global technology company household name. And, of course, they’re all engineers. So they, you know, they love data. And when we put the data in front of them, and showed them that 33 of the 35 executives, top leaders in this company, we’re all pretty high risk seekers. And we put and they kind of knew this, but we put the data in front of them. And you know, I’ve got all of them arrayed on my zoom in front of me, and their faces were like, Whoa, and, and then, you know, that was kind of stunned silence for a minute. And then there was this sort of nervous laughter like, do you think that’s why we’ve had all these blow ups in the market? And the regulators are crawling all over us? And Hmm, and then one of the guys kind of raises his hand, he said, All right, I’ll out myself. I’m one of the two risk spotters, the one who always sees the downside, and you never effing listen to me. And there was some sort of again, you know, nervous laughter like, – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
Heidi K. Gardner 21:14
oh, Haha, yeah. But
Heidi K. Gardner 21:15
you know, we don’t like to listen to you. Because you’re always saying no to our grand ideas, and lots of back and forth, then about how do you give somebody voice? And it’s very much like what you’re saying in the financial crisis? How do you make
Heidi K. Gardner 21:27
sure you have people
Heidi K. Gardner 21:28
in the room who can preemptively identify the risks, and they have the space to bring it up? No, of course, it’s on them to be seen as constructive, right, they’ve got to be able to position those risks that they identify in a way that everyone understands that they’re pointing it out, for the good of the group, right, we want to pressure test this before it goes to market or whatever the case is. So it’s on them to show up constructively. But it’s crucial that the group has that mix that diversity of risk profiles in the group, – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
Heidi K. Gardner 22:02
and that they use it.
Diversity And Inclusion
Heidi K. Gardner 22:04
And this is the difference, James between diversity and inclusion. diversity means you’ve got people with different mindsets on the board. Inclusion means you’re actually listening to all of them. They’re all contributing in a way that they get heard and used. Because diversity might not be helpful at all. It’s like having a bank account where you’ve lost your ATM card, if all you have is, you know, resources, as in diversity, different ways of thinking, but you don’t give those people a chance to contribute. It’s like, you know, having a juicy bank account, but not being able to get the money out of it, right? It’s just late, Henschel at that point. And so, you know, we are encouraging people to really be thoughtful and use tools like this, to understand the underlying diversity, the cognitive diversity, the intellectual diversity, the behavioral diversity on their teams, and then take it to the next level and say, are we using it to its fullest? So now, I’m back to the question, you know, that was eating away at me while I was at McKinsey, which is, why are some teams so much better than others that using the full complement of their members’ potential? And this is partly our answer to that it’s helping people become much more self aware, understanding where their strengths are, and how to play to them. Right, James, you had that already, you said, you know, I’m really a hands off person. But I know that sometimes that’s a weakness. So I complement myself with people who are the opposite. That level of self awareness and self understanding is crucial. The ability to admit that you can’t be everything to everyone, and that you’re better off teaming with somebody who’s opposite than trying to cover that whole spectrum yourself. You know, that is a journey that a lot of people need to go on. And then at the group level, you know, our team insights report helps to aggregate those individual insights at the level of the group so that those team members and the team leader understand you know, where there’s some blind spots? Or where do we have gaps, or Wow, nobody on our team is a concrete thinker, we’d better get somebody in here, when we’re doing our brainstorming meetings. – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
James Taylor 24:11
complement that to be we have a little bit of a contrary in of that when I used to work in in the Silicon Valley. world. I would often speak to it could be VCs, or it could be small startups that may be under 100,000 startups. And they actually saw there, this is a sub saying even as I say this is mad, but they’re saying their lack of diversity they saw as a benefit to some of them, because they said we can get more stuff done more quickly because everyone thinks the same. So we can just move really quickly and execute. And I guess Obviously, we’ve seen that concept we work and you know, there’s there’s there’s challenges to that, that way of thinking. So what would you do for those, those people that may be listening to this just now and say, Okay, well yeah, in an ideal world, you want to have that diversity but for smaller staff And organizations and smaller teams actually is going to be better for innovation. If we have more people that think in a similar way, because we can get more stuff done more more quickly.
Heidi K. Gardner 25:12
And I would absolutely agree you can get stuff done faster, you just can’t get good stuff done faster.
James Taylor 25:18
Heidi K. Gardner 25:19
it will be easier. And it will certainly feel a lot more comfortable when you’re surrounded by people who think just like you do. And then, like that big tech company we’re talking about, everyone’s gunning it Yes, yes, yes. You know, over optimism, let’s go go go fight for the market, win, win win. And there’s, you know, some big step you’ve missed, because nobody put the brakes on it. Nobody actually called you out on your pricing strategy, or your compliance, or your product market fit, or all of those things that are essential for startups. And you get out there and you launch and you fall flat. Now you launched faster, but is that really what you wanted to do? – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
Heidi K. Gardner 25:57
I don’t think so.
Heidi K. Gardner 25:58
And it’s funny, you should mention startups, we use the accelerator with a 12 person startup team in Silicon Valley, a tech company. And we’re now working with their investors, a bunch of VCs and angel investors, because they believe so much in the power of this kind of diversity. And
James Taylor 26:17
that makes total sense. Also, from an investor’s standpoint, you’re always looking to de-risk things as much as you can, you know, and reduce your risk.
Heidi K. Gardner 26:26
Bingo. And so what they know, and these investors are super smart and experienced. What they know is that naive, inexperienced leaders make the mistake that you said, naive and inexperienced leaders say this doesn’t feel comfortable to me, I think I should have people around me who are similar, and therefore we can go faster. That’s a pretty Forgive me, but in mature way of thinking about teamwork. And these investors know that a lot of people who start companies are brilliant at what they do. But they lacked leadership training and a lot of leadership experience. And so these investors now are using the accelerator to help their portfolio companies and the leaders of the startups understand that it’s a little bit harder to do especially to you get the skills, but you will be so much more effective. And that’s what they’re after is effectiveness. It’s not just a rush to market. It’s brilliant products – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
James Taylor 27:23
that meet some kind of a need that have been tested appropriately, and iterated. And that’s what comes from diversity. And in the world of professional services firms, whether that’s accountants, lawyers, engineers, consultants are there any where they actually don’t benefit from collaboration in the way that you’re talking about?
Heidi K. Gardner 27:43
So there’s a couple of ways to think about that. Number one is I tend to think about collaboration for externally facing client problems, for example. And so if your business is predicated on doing repeat routine work at the lowest possible cost, and that’s how you make margin, then what you’re not trying to do is bring together a dynamic group of people who have different bases of expertise, because it will slow you down, it’s not efficient. And if you’re not solving a complex problem, where those different perspectives are important, then that’s not helpful in solving that problem. But what I would argue is and our data backs this up, is you need collaboration to make that efficient process happen. So you’re going to need process engineers and technicians and pricing experts and market experts. And and, and, and those, those diverse teams, those multidisciplinary teams will allow you to capture that commoditized market for a profit. So then you’re not coll
aborating, each time you’re delivering something, because that’s routine and commoditized. But what you’re doing is collaborating to get the best commoditized product possible at the cheapest rates and the fastest you can deliver. And you’re never going to get that unless you have diversity of thought. – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
James Taylor 29:06
Now, I don’t know whether this may be the topic of your next book. But we’ve obviously been living through a time where collaboration has gone from in person in the real world to virtual and we’re probably going to go to now have more of a hybrid model as we start getting back into the offices. So where what is your data showing you what is the conversations you’re having with clients as as to how they’ve been thinking about collaboration and how they’re thinking about collaboration as we we move into whatever is next?
Heidi K. Gardner 29:34
Absolutely, it’s, it’s a real challenge. I will say that there are some winners and losers in this space. Let me tell you, a term called hum awfully hum awfully is this geeky psychology term. But it basically is a well known response for humans that we feel more comfortable with. We’re drawn to we trust implicitly people people whom we believe are similar to us our in group, right. And evolutionary psychologists will explain this as you know, tribal and long ago. But wherever the roots are, it’s it’s really prevalent that our perceived in group is whom we turn to most naturally. And think about the implications then for this virtual world. We’re not literally bumping into people in the office in the car park in the and so what it means is that those serendipitous accidental encounters aren’t happening, we have to be intentional about whom we’re interacting with. And so imagine that you’ve got a meeting that miraculously finishes five minutes early. And James, you say, Oh, you know, let me reach out to somebody on my team, let me just check in almost guaranteed unless you’re hyper aware, the first person that springs to mind is going to be somebody who’s pretty similar to you. And then the next person is going to be pretty similar. And it’s not until you kind of get to that fifth or sixth person, you’re like, oh, wow, I haven’t really talked to that person quite a while, let me check in with her that. And the problem is, many, many organizations are quite homogenous. So the first person that springs to everyone’s mind tends to be like most people, yeah, think about that. Those who started a year and a bit ago, the beginning of the pandemic, slightly on the margins of their organization, have gotten pushed further and further and further outside the core, so that they’re probably pretty isolated at this point. And if if organizations aren’t very thoughtful and deliberate about making those connections, the laissez faire, that you know, let’s just, you know, encourage people to reach out to others isn’t going to work, because some people are going to be left out of that. So it’s one of the critical factors that we have to think about is who hasn’t benefited from the virtual world? And that’s one kind of that’s one way to think about who might be left out of this is who already didn’t slightly for whatever reason, maybe they simply were new joiner to the organization, you know, how do they get baked in? And the point of new joiners is another one. – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
James Taylor 32:10
I mean, that’s as you’re as you’re talking about this, that instinct of this, who I have in my head, I have that new new trainee into that law firm that you associate that’s just joining there maybe a company’s acquired another company they’re just coming in is completely different culture. I don’t think wow, how difficult is it for that person now to collaborate if they’ve not built up? I guess what I’m like Amy Edmondson, like a psychological safety in those relationships? – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
Heidi K. Gardner 32:40
Absolutely. I mean, what is very common by at this point after a year plus is very, very common to find people working for an organization where they have never met a single colleague in person. And so the question is, you know, how do you get them integrated? You know, James, our research shows that those first 12 months are absolutely critical. What our data shows, and lots of other scholars have found this outside of the professional services arena,
Heidi K. Gardner 33:07
is that if
Heidi K. Gardner 33:08
two way collaboration isn’t happening in that first year, in other words, if I’m a new joiner to your company, and in that first 12 months, I don’t have first the experience of you or some new colleagues inviting me on to the to the core work of what you know, is already happening at the company. And I need the experience where, where I create some kind of work, it’s my project is the client work they brought with me or whatever, and I need to be able to have somebody supporting me in that work. If those sort of two way referrals or two way collaboration rests, reciprocal collaboration doesn’t happen in that first year, it gets harder and harder for that to happen. And what we see is that after about 18 months, if it still isn’t happening on a regular basis, there is a very, very, very high chance that the new joiner has left – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
James Taylor 33:58
or been asked. And some of those two ways that could be quite informal as that is the annual company meeting is the getaway the retreat. I mean, I speak a lot about creativity, this idea of the third place the importance of whether it’s Ancient Greeks with the symposiums where they get together to drink and you have a merchant and a philosopher and an artist coming from different totally different perspectives and different life experiences and then debating discussing and challenging each other’s ideas. Then we had the coffee shops in Vienna and 1800s and 1900s and then no probably you know, got caught lol coffee shops and things now that can fulfill that function that feels like it’s lacking that and that almost feels like that can sometimes be that softer glue in the collaboration experience that I feel really sorry for a lot of new joiners that they’re not able to experience in the virtual and you say those those strange meetings you sometimes have with someone over a cup of coffee or when you’re in a line for getting the buffet. Sometimes those can transform your thinking and then have you seen Things or understand how another partner is approaching a problem? – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
Heidi K. Gardner 35:03
Heidi K. Gardner 35:04
mean, we see it all the time in these zoom meetings, you can’t turn to the person next to you, like you would if you were around a table, and you know, make eye contact with them when something funny happens, you know, and there’s that little bonding experience, you know, when you can actually make like, I’m making eye contact with you right now. But you don’t actually know that right? And so, you know, we don’t have that little sidebar conversation, that it’s the it’s those small encounters, it’s walking out of the meeting, when somebody says something, you think, wow, you know, like,
Heidi K. Gardner 35:34
Competence Trust And Interpersonal Trust
Heidi K. Gardner 35:35
no idea, you know, you and I were both thinking the same things in there. And that doesn’t happen, you have 15 people whose faces show up on these little boxes, and I can’t have a private conversation with you. I mean, maybe it happens a little bit in the chat. But you know, you and I can’t have that same kind of trust building. And, you know, our research for the first book, very much showed that two kinds of trust are both critically important for collaboration. One is competence trust. So if you’re going to ask me to join up with you to deliver a client project, for example, you have to believe that I’m going to deliver on time on budget, high quality work, I’m an expert in what I say I am. And you have to believe in a professional services arena, that my client handling skills are high quality, right? So you have to believe kind of the whole package in terms of my competence, but it’s not enough. You might think I’m the world’s greatest expert on smart collaboration. But if you think I’m a jerk, you still don’t want to work with me. Right? And there’s that interpersonal trust the what are her intentions? Is she high integrity is she going to take you know, take all the spotlight and not leave, you know, not leave any glow for anyone else. And there’s that kind of interpersonal trust that’s as important as competence trust. And and so, you know, each is necessary, but not sufficient. And I think they’re both hard to build.
James Taylor 36:57
As you as you’re saying, I’m suddenly remembering someone we had on the show warm well, by Nick West, who’s the bass player was a bass player with Prince. And we were having this conversation about, like, she’s, she’s a great player, highly competent as a player, which gets so many bookings. And I said, Well, why do you think so many people book you and hire you and you join them? these famous these great bands? And she said, Yeah, as well as being able to absolutely, like, play gray and be great on the gig and really deliver that performance. What you tend to find is the people that get all the bookings, and this is her expression, they’ve got really good hang chops is the expression of the use of music. They’re a good hang that they’re on that tour bus when you’re on the road with someone for months and months and months there there’s you can just hang in there. There’s an integrity about them you enjoy that their company enjoy the movie have different perspective on things, but it adds to the variety of what you’re doing. So they’ve got the competence and you know, and the other side as well. So I don’t know what the technical the academic term is for this is the music temperatures, the hang chops, good hang jobs? – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
Heidi K. Gardner 37:59
Absolutely. I guess, you know, I’m gonna come back to this some awfully point, though, you know, the the risk is that the people we automatically feel have those chops. Yeah, are the ones who are probably pretty similar to us. And so, you know, we might need to build some trust to go to go one step further. You know, if I feel like you’re really different from me, I might have a bit of an allergic reaction at first glance, and I have to make a small investment. This is where the risk comes in. I have to make a small investment in getting to know you to see Oh, my God, you are so much fun. Yeah, let me know, let
James Taylor 38:34
me know. And it’s like we call it creative payors, where you’ll often have I was doing event recently with Steve Wozniak, and we were talking about the difference in personalities between them, like Steve is very, is an engineer really, where where Steve Jobs was obviously more of a sales person, great marketing, great mind as well, very different personalities. But they knew that there was a complement there, they knew that the total was greater than individual parts. And I guess that’s the, you know, when it comes to that collaboration, not everyone can deal with that sometimes. So having someone that has a very different perspective on the world, – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
Heidi K. Gardner 39:10
I think it really does take a level of self awareness. It takes a level of humbleness, right to say I can’t be everything to everyone. And therefore, I’m going to define some areas of expertise and really, you know, charge forward on those with the comfort of saying, I don’t know or I don’t do that and bring somebody else on board. And it really takes, I think, a level of maturity. And some people never get there. Some people are never ever willing to say that they can share the limelight and still get at least as much out of it as if they were there on their own. – The Power Of Smart Collaboration
James Taylor 39:51
Well, we can talk on and on about this. It is a fascinating topic about smart collaboration. I want to make sure that people are able to to learn more about Obviously the book smart collaboration, but also the great smart collaboration accelerator. And also whatever new books you’ve got coming up next new books in your academic research, where is the best place for someone to go to start finding out about them to maybe connect with you individually?
Heidi K. Gardner 40:15
Well, their smart collaboration accelerator has a very clever website, smartcollaborationaccelerator.com. It’s a bit of an IQ test, if you can spell all you’re allowed to take it.
Heidi K. Gardner 40:25
Heidi K. Gardner 40:26
but it has all the details on there, some of the geeky science stuff behind why it works as well as how to get in touch with us smartcollaborationaccelerator.com. We’ve also got a gardenerandco.co. And that’s for our advisory business and our research. And we have a whole archive of I don’t think it has all 84 publications that I’ve ever written or whatever it is, but it has a lot of them on there. And it gives people access to a lot of the research that we’ve got coming up as well.
James Taylor 40:55
Well, Heidi’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show today. And I absolutely know that all the clients I speak to what they’re saying as they start to get back together and people to meet in collaboration is like the thing that they want to train their people on as well. So your time has definitely come on this topic. So I wish you great success with the the new book as well put all these links here on the show notes. Heidi, thank you so much for all your all your great insights today.
Heidi K. Gardner 41:18
My pleasure. Thanks for having me. It
James Taylor 41:20
was really fun. You can subscribe to the super creativity podcast on Spotify, Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcast while you’re there. Please leave us a review. I would really appreciate it. I’m James Taylor, and you’ve been listening to the super creativity podcast. – The Power Of Smart Collaboration