Collaboration – for all the rhetoric – is much harder , and for many of us less preferable, than working in isolation.
Today we’ve woken up to find the UK has made a historic choice. A choice that could be interpreted as a desire to go it alone rather than working with others. To seize ‘control’ rather than work within a large and complex network.
The biggest innovation challenge we have today and in the years ahead – is that we simply stop talking to ourselves. That we value inclusion and collaboration above all.
The opportunity afforded to us by digital networks was meant to open up a new era where organisations committed to improving people’s lives (that’s most of us, right?) commit to open learning, sharing and collaboration.
It won’t happen without a lot of hard work. Most organisations and sectors thrive on insularity. It’s the way we’ve been raised. Working with others is messier, less predictable and more complex.
The issue is , right around the world , people are working on solving exactly the same problems. Huge amounts of talent seeking to address, income and health inequality, lack of affordable housing, unemployment, ageing, digital exclusion and loneliness.
Yesterday I spoke at a conference led by Suzanne Rastrick. It was organised by the NHS – the single biggest employer across Europe. It filled me with a lot of hope for the future. I like the way that Suzanne and her colleagues are reaching out to other sectors to get their ideas. Reaching out to communities to provide a less paternalistic and more human health and wellbeing service.
Most of our challenging business issues, fall into the category of Wicked Problems. These aren’t amenable to the single organisation, top down instinct to define, analyse, dissect and process.
These issues are incapable of being explored through hierarchical corporate machinery, a single sector or even a single state. They need an open network of rebels and pragmatists, doers and doubters, idealists and investors. Only through truly open innovation will we tackle them successfully.
That means working out loud – something we’ve begun to do at Bromford but needs far more development.
- It means opening up your organisational borders to fresh thinking , new partnerships and ideas.
- It means moving away from intranets – the death of corporate innovation – where all your knowledge is locked away from those outside your organisation. (And often from many within it too).
- It means stopping wasting money on conferences where sectors congregate to talk to themselves. Instead we need strategies aimed at purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation.
- It means generously sharing your knowledge , successes and failures through blogs , accessible dashboards and other digital tools.
However it feels right now, we are much better connected. Digital technology means we can share and learn in ways unimaginable even 10 years ago.
We still have the opportunity before us to connect communities, businesses and sectors – boosting our capacity and capability for innovation and change.
We still have the opportunity to connect with others across real and imagined borders and form movements and partnerships that change things for the better.
In that respect – today I’m just as hopeful as I was yesterday.