In today’s episode, I chat with Dr. Heidi Gardner, a Boston, MA-based Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School and Faculty Chair of the school’s Accelerated Leadership Program, Smart Collaboration Masterclass and other programs. Previously, she was a professor at Harvard Business School and continues to teach executive education there and at other Harvard graduate schools.
The author of more than 80 books, chapters, case studies, and articles, Dr. Gardner was named by Thinkers 50 as a Next Generation Business Guru. She is co-founder of the research and advisory firm Gardner & Co., a recognized thought leader in “Smart Collaboration,” and highly acclaimed keynote speaker. Gardner & Co.'s ground-breaking psychometric tool, the Smart Collaboration Accelerator, developed after a decade of primary research, has been adapted by leaders worldwide as a practical tool for embedding a collaborative culture.
Together we discussed the business case for smarter collaboration. We really dug into how embracing smart collaboration helps companies increase revenues and profits, boost innovation, and recruit, engage, and retain great employees. We chat about how collaboration shifts in a crisis and why smarter collaboration should be at the top of every senior leader’s agenda before disaster strikes. And we close with a discussion on collaboration in hybrid work environments.
It was such a pleasure reconnecting with Dr. Gardner. And I hope you enjoy it.
Dr Heidi Gardner
Heidi K. Gardner, PhD, is the author of the best-selling book Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos. A Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School, she was previously a professor at Harvard Business School and a consultant at McKinsey & Co. With Ivan Matviak, she co-founded the research and advisory firm Gardner & Collaborators.
Dr. Gardner has lived and worked on four continents. She was a Fulbright Fellow and started her career at Procter & Gamble. She earned her BA in Japanese from the University of Pennsylvania (Phi Beta Kappa, Summa cum Laude), a Master’s Degree from the London School of Economics, and a second Master’s and PhD from London Business School.
Thinking Inside the Box
Constraints drive innovation. We tackle the most complex issues related to work & culture. And if you enjoy the work we’re doing here, consider giving us a 5-star rating, leaving a comment & subscribing. It ensures you get updated whenever we release new content & really helps amplify our message.
Matt Burns is an award-winning executive, social entrepreneur and speaker. He believes in the power of community, simplicity & technology.
[00:00:00] Guest 1: Is this the best and highest use of my time and energy and brain power? And leaders need to role model that themselves. They need to get themselves off distribution list. They need to, to delegate and empower people to play the substitute role for them, and they need to be. Asking those [00:00:20] questions themselves.
Do we have the right people in the room? Do we have enough? Do we have too many keys?
[00:00:37] Matt: Strengths drive innovation. [00:00:40] Hey everyone, it's Matt here for another episode of Thinking Inside the Box, a show where we discuss complex issues related to. And culture. If you're interested in checking out our other content, you can find firstname.lastname@example.org and wherever you find your favorite podcasts. By searching, thinking inside the box.
And if you enjoy the work we're doing here, consider leaving [00:01:00] us a five star rating, a comment and subscribing. It ensures you get updated whenever we release new content and really helps amplify our message. In today's episode, I chat with Dr. Heidi Gardner, Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law. And faculty chair of the school's accelerated leadership program.
[00:01:20] Previously, Heidi was a professor at Harvard Business School and continues to teach executive education there. And at other Harvard graduate schools, the author of more than 80 books, chapters, case studies and articles. Dr. Gardner was named by Thinkers 50 as a next Generation business. She's co-founder of the research and advisory firm, Gardner and Co.[00:01:40]
A recognized thought leader in smart collaboration and highly acclaimed keynote speaker. Her work empowers executives in every environment to drive change by harnessing the innate strength of their team members. And Gardner and CO's ground Brooking psychometric tool. The Smart Collaboration Accelerator [00:02:00] was developed after nearly a decade of primary research and has since been adapted by leaders worldwide as a practical tool for embedding a collaborative culture.
Her latest book, Smarter Collaboration captures new research case studies and practical tested applications of concepts in industries ranging from he. [00:02:20] Financial services, public service, technology, manufacturing, retail and more. And it's scheduled for release with the Harvard Business Press in the fall of 2022.
Together we discussed the business case for smarter collaboration and really dug [00:02:40] into how embracing smart collaboration helps companies increase revenues and profits. We talked about how it supports in. Recruiting, engaging and retaining great employees. We chatted about how collaboration shifts in a crisis and the impact of collaboration in [00:03:00] hybrid work environments.
It was a real pleasure talking all things collaboration with Dr. Gardner, and I hope you enjoy it. And now I bring you Dr. Heidi Gardner.
[00:03:13] Guest 1: Heidi. How are you doing today? I'm very well, Matt. Thanks. Thanks for having me. I am
[00:03:17] Matt: looking forward to this conversation. You're about ready to [00:03:20] hit the airport hop around the world on a plane, so I'm catching a nick of time. Um, before we get into that story and your background, let's talk about your experiences and what led you to today.
[00:03:29] Guest 1: I guess, how long do you have? Cause I have such a checkered past. It makes, when I talk about my background, it makes it sound like I can't hold a job. But I, I prefer to think of it as having followed my passions at various points [00:03:40] in time. Um, maybe I'll pick up from, uh, a little bit of where I came from originally, which was Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
So, grew up, I mean, not that we were Amish. Uh, my maternal grandmother was Mennonite, but, you know, grew up in a. System that was not, um, one that particularly valued [00:04:00] intellectual debate or, uh, intellectual achievement even, and was pretty patriarchal in a lot of ways. And so, um, you know, the journey from being there as a kid to being, uh, you know, a Harvard professor, uh, took a lot of steps in between, I think.
One of the things that people find most surprising about me, aside from where I came [00:04:20] from originally, is that I've lived and worked on four continents, and so I had experiences working as a a Fulbright fellow in, you know, the former East Germany. I've lived in South Africa. When I was a McKinsey consultant, I was actually a Japanese major back in university, and so I had the chance to [00:04:40] study and.
Work in, uh, several places in Japan, and I spent nearly 12 years living in London. And so it's been a real adventure. It's been energizing and humbling and an incredible learning experiences, uh, living and working in all of those different places [00:05:00] as I've come to understand. What it takes to really get inside people's heads and hearts and try to empathize with people.
And these days do research and design systems where everyone can at least have a better thought at thriving. Well, isn't
[00:05:17] Matt: that the case? These days too. And, and [00:05:20] not to worry about your background, Our experiences are, are equally checkered in that regard. And I, I, you know, I was, I've absolutely drawn to your experiences because, like you said, having so much experience internationally and globally, I can imagine that had a huge.
Impact you view the broader world. And I'm curious with all those, you know, the, the breadth of experiences, how that would've [00:05:40] influenced your work at
[00:05:40] Guest 1: Harvard? Well, what's really interesting right now for me is that I have a real blend of Harvard based work and private work. So the sh you know, the, my title right now is Distinguished Fellow at Harvard.
I dare say nobody knows what that means, and I use it to my advantage because it [00:06:00] means I get to focus on the things that I absolutely love doing. So I do very much applied research. I take part of my background, which is, you know, two master's degrees from the London School of Economics, London Business School, and a PhD in organizational Behavior from from London Business School, and still do very rigorous empirical research.
[00:06:20] And at the same time, my McKinsey background, where I was for five years. Allows me to aim the research at areas that I think are intensely practical and we're trying to answer through our research ways to help organizations and the people within them really make the most [00:06:40] of what they're bringing to the table.
And so, you know, your question about what has the international experience. Brought to bear, It really allows me to, whether it's inside Harvard, when I'm teaching executive programs or doing this kind of research, or whether it's in my private work, you know, working with organizations, nonprofits, and companies and [00:07:00] professional firms around the planet, it gives me a, a strong appreciation that there aren't just two sides of any story.
There are many, many sides of a story, and we try to dig in with my research team to understand. What those different perspectives are and to embrace them [00:07:20] and try to understand how, looking at it through different lenses per se, you know, any challenge or opportunity. Looking at it through these different lenses really allow us to create something more profound than any of us could do on our own.
[00:07:34] Matt: and collaborative because when you're drawing upon those disparate experiences and background and areas of expertise, you're getting a [00:07:40] much more comprehensive view of either the opportunity or you know, the challenge ahead of you. You know, I know one area of your emphasis of your research and also upcoming, um, the book Smarter Collaboration, A new Approach to Breaking Down Barriers and Transforming Work, you know, speaks to some of those key principles.
What was the impetus for that [00:08:00] particular title?
[00:08:00] Guest 1: Well, actually my first book was called Smart Collaboration, and that was published in 2017, and the impetus for that title was the. Emphasis on collaboration as a means to an end. So people can use the term collaboration in lots of ways, you know, collegiality or you [00:08:20] know, big group hugs or consensus seeking.
And we wanted to signal very strongly that. What we mean by smart collaboration is different. It's hyper intentional. It's being very deliberate about starting with the end that you have in mind. You know, take solving a tough problem, climate [00:08:40] change, for example, and. Working backwards, reverse engineering to figure out what kinds of perspectives are going to be crucial to bring into the conversation at what point in time so that we're not missing any important pieces.
And so when you're looking at something like climate change, it's obvious to say, Okay, [00:09:00] you need, you know, environmental scientists, but if you don't look at it from the human factor side, if you don't look at the historical context, the political dynamics, the culture, et cetera, et cetera, You know, you're gonna have, you're gonna be hard pressed to really engage in a meaningful way on solutions.
And so the, the impetus for the smart collaboration [00:09:20] title was to trigger people that this is not a soft skill. This is a very hard hitting business imperative or, uh, professional imperative to bring together those different insights in order to tackle these complex, sophisticated issues that are the most important ones we face.[00:09:40]
I guess, and then, you know, going on from there, Smarter collaboration. This second book, uh, you know, we are really trying to get people to think hard about. When they are engaging in collaboration, are they doing it as well as they possibly could and we can get into it, but there's lots of good intention that go [00:10:00] horribly wrong when it comes to collaboration and it just isn't as smart as it needs to be.
[00:10:05] Matt: Let's get there. There's absolutely I can, I'm smiling ear to ear just hearing you say that because I completely agree with you. Best of intentions sometimes don't always work out. And I'm curious, again, in your research or in your professional practice, what are some of the common themes that you're seeing when collaboration goes [00:10:20] astray?
[00:10:20] Guest 1: Well, Matt, one of them is the false belief that if collaboration is good, more and more is, And that leads people to take actions. Like throwing a team at every problem, Hey, we've got something going on, Let's pull a team together. And then, you know, not being thoughtful, First of all, do [00:10:40] we actually need a team?
And if yes, Which team members and how do we engage them and how do we create the context in which they're really going to be able to speak up and contribute and their contributions get valued. And over collaboration is one of the, the, the [00:11:00] pitfalls of the enthusiasm that has risen for this idea of collaboration.
In other words, people will. Imagine that if collaboration is helpful, we can pull people together and do more collectively than we could on our own. Let's get a really big group. [00:11:20] Well, that's, you know, that, that can go horribly astray. Um, it can go wrong in that some people get wild. Were tapped and over committed, and the, the work of, um, Professor Rob Cross at Babson College near here in Boston has shown empirically that about three to 5% of the people in [00:11:40] any given organization bear a hugely outsized, disproportionate collaborative load.
And so you have just a few people in the organization. Who are constantly pulled on different projects at the same time, and they're stretched way too thin. And that's another problem that we see happening quite a lot [00:12:00] is that, um, collaboration is not spread well throughout the organization. People pull in the usual suspects and those people get overburdened and you might ask, you know, so what?
Like, you know, shouldn't they just say no? And it's their problem if they don't. But really the whole organization suffers when that happens. When you get [00:12:20] people who are stretched too thin, they become bottlenecks. Um, you also have problems that sometimes it's certain kinds of people who get stretched too thin.
And so, you know, we have, um, a number of of our own clients that are professional service firms and they get these quotas [00:12:40] set from their clients that say, you know, Our society is practically 50 50 men and women. We want to see 50% of the teams that serve us having women, you know, 50% women on them. The problem is in, you know, say professional services firm, they not only have 30% of their partners, As [00:13:00] women.
So those 30% women get spread across so many different projects all at once so that they can meet their quotas of having half women on the team that it totally backfires. You know, the clients have really great intentions. They want to fraud their providers, their vendors to get on the diversity [00:13:20] bandwagon and put more people into the partnership role.
But what happens in. The early days is when these women get stretched too thin across too many projects at once. They learn less because they get pigeonholed doing the same kind of work again and again. They don't get access to the juiciest parts of the problem. They don't find [00:13:40] mentors and sponsors.
They don't get adequate coaching. And so, you know, that's another kind of problem that we've seen play out in the enthusiasm to collaborate more. It's not smart collaboration and. Certain individuals and oftentimes the entire organization pays the price. Oh,
[00:13:58] Matt: I think you're absolutely right. And as somebody who [00:14:00] spent a lot of my professional career working in large multinationals, matrixed organizations where a lot of citizens were made by committee, there was often a sense in the room of, does it need to be 20 people here?
Like, do we all 20 of us need to be sitting around the table having this conversation? Or could 15 of us gotten an email? Um, and there is this sense of, in some [00:14:20] cases, Collaboration, to your point, being used really to abdicate authority around the decision making and to decentralize, if you will, the accountability if things don't go to plan.
And those, I would, I would argue with, you know, I would agree with you in sense that they are not, The right use cases for collaboration though, when you're not like that, [00:14:40] it's really hard to be the person that says, Ah, we shouldn't be doing this. I wanna collaborate less. So I'm curious from your perspective, if you know as a leader or as a professional service organization, or as even just an outside party, if you are in a situation where you are faced with to your, your.
Over collection. [00:15:00] What are some of the ways that we can work in a productive, collaborative way such that we can, you know, communicate, if you will, some of our concerns around over collaboration, but to not, you know, diffuse What is soliciting feedback and having that, you know, that big tent approach to, you know, problems thing?
[00:15:18] Guest 1: Well, let's start with [00:15:20] leaders. Leaders can do a couple of really important things. Number one, they should create the context where people don't just feel comfortable, but feel obliged to raise their hand and ask the question. Why am I in this room? Why am I at the table? Why am I on this email list? [00:15:40] Not in a, an aggressive or responsibility ducking kind of way, but genuinely to ask, is this the best and highest use of my time and energy and brain power?
And leaders need to role model that themselves. They need to get themselves off distribution list. They need to, to delegate and empower people to [00:16:00] play the substitute role for them, and they need to. Asking those questions themselves. Do we have the right people in the room? Do we have enough? Do we have too?
[00:16:12] Matt: Hey everyone, it's Matt here. I hope you're enjoying today's discussion. And before we continue, I want to make you aware of my latest creative [00:16:20] project this week at Work, presented in partnership with my good friend Chris Rainey of HR Leaders. Each Friday will livestream on LinkedIn at 7:00 AM Pacific Standard.
That's 10:00 AM Eastern Standard Time and 3:00 PM GMT for our European viewers. And together bringing the latest trends, [00:16:40] news on topics emanating from organizations, everything from culture to technology, and the future of work. Joining is easy. Just follow me on LinkedIn. Click the bell at the top right hand side of my profile and you'll get notified when we go live each.
Whether you do experience the content live or later, if you've been following [00:17:00] me for a while, you'll no doubt recognize the fun banter Chris and I have developed over the years and whether it's been podcasts or digital events. We're so excited to, again, bring you the topics affecting today's workplaces and their leaders.
And now back to our discussion.
[00:17:17] Guest 1: I also think that [00:17:20] leaders need to make it clear that collaboration is. Like any other tool only useful when it's deployed well. And so leaders can set the standard, they can really role model this kind of behavior where you begin with the end in mind. Hey, let's take a step back.
Let's just pause. [00:17:40] What is it that we're trying to accomplish here? Do we have the right people in the room? You know, I was speaking earlier about, um, gender diversity. I tend Matt to study gender diversity because the data gets collected oftentimes in a cleaner way than some other kinds of diversity. But you know, what I was mentioning before is just as likely to happen with other kinds of [00:18:00] groups as it is, you know, to women when they get spread too thin and it's up to the leader to ask the questions.
Do we see those kinds of patterns in our organization? Or let's step back and examine from an outcomes focused way, whom do we need in the room? Maybe we need different, you know, [00:18:20] gender diversity. Maybe we need generational diversity. Maybe we need people with different life experiences and. When leaders, and I don't just mean formal leaders, I mean anyone who can step up and play a a leadership role when they start to embrace genuine diversity, not just the surface level, what we look [00:18:40] like, but genuine diversity.
Like, I don't know, maybe somebody grew up in a foster home and their perspective on the world could be really different than somebody else's, and how can we make. How can we create the kind of environment where people take. Parts of their own lived [00:19:00] experience and bring that productively into the workplace in order to accomplish something that couldn't be done without them.
You know, And whether that's a, a work related task, you know, for solving a client problem, whether it's an innovative task, whether it is creating more empathetic environment. [00:19:20] Be, if we tapped into more people with those kinds of experiences, we'd have a more thriving, engaged workforce and better outcomes.
And a lot of this does start with the leadership behaviors. You used
[00:19:33] Matt: the term earlier that I love around soft skills. And for a lot of professionals who. Growing up [00:19:40] in this corporate world, the term soft skills and at times kinda a negative connotation, there's a sense of like hard skills are the predominant modality of business.
We're talking about numbers and we're talking about financials, and we're talking about KPIs. And when it comes to the soft skills around leadership or inclusion or collaboration, These can times take a backseat. And [00:20:00] you know, I think in a lot of cases that is a misstep by organizations and it, I, I mentioned that because it feels like in some contexts that hard skills are prioritized over soft skills.
Meaning that in times of crisis or in times of great challenge, we can sometimes put those aside and focus more on the tangible items. I'm curious [00:20:20] about your thoughts around collaboration in times of crisis and how that. Shows up how that needs to be different, um, and ultimately how collaboration can help us get through crisis.
[00:20:29] Guest 1: Absolutely. I will come to collaboration at Crisis in, in a moment, but let me just tell you, if collaboration were a soft skill, we would not be able to quantify the outcomes. Right. [00:20:40] You know, we've got, um, very hard data, millions of data records from companies around the world demonstrating empirically that smarter collaboration leads to higher revenues and profits faster innovation.
Stronger, more sustainable customer and client relationships. And so collaboration, you know, for [00:21:00] anyone who is thinking about collaboration as a soft skill, as in a nice to have, is completely missing the opportunity to leverage collaboration to get those quantifiable outcomes, which brings us to collaboration.
In a crisis, we were able to measure the outcomes. We were able to measure how collaboration changed in different kinds of crises [00:21:20] and. The resulting effect on some outcomes like customer satisfaction, like revenues, et cetera. And so what we saw, Matt, is that. People often have a misconception around what happens in a crisis.
People tend to think [00:21:40] that everyone automatically kinds of links, arms and says, Hey, we're all in this together. There's a common enemy, you know, let's, let's band together and be better, and that a crisis will provoke stronger, more effective collaboration. Unfortunately, the data doesn't show that happening.
It shows that [00:22:00] people. Often will have a burst of enthusiasm and good will and will try to make efforts to overcome whatever that crisis situation is. But A, it's pretty short lived, and B, it's oftentimes pretty ineffective. And C, it's highly vari. [00:22:20] So where does that leave us? Uh, what we see empirically is that we looked at a range of different organizations backing the last financial crisis in, in 2008.
And what we saw inside organizations is that by and large people became, at least after this, you know, kind of first [00:22:40] burst of enthusiasm within a very short time period. Many, many, many people became. Hyper self interested, or at least the data makes it look as if they became very self interested. They stopped working with other people.
They stopped opening up their either treasured client relationships or customer relationships [00:23:00] or the important projects to other people. And they essentially hoarded work hoarded resources, hoarded client relationships, and. became anti collaborative, and that was actually the majority of people that we studied.
What we saw conversely, is there was a very small margin of people who did the opposite. [00:23:20] They became. More open, more collaborative in the sense of engaging with a broader set of people and, and bringing more people into important pieces of work that they shared those people. What we looked at is outcomes down the road at the, you know, sort of two and three year mark [00:23:40] post, um, crisis ending.
And what we saw is that the superior collaborators ended up. Far better outcomes and it didn't matter what kind of organization we were looking at. There's, you know, lots of different kinds of outcomes that are unique to an organization. But there are some that are pretty standard across organizations like, you know, your personal KPIs [00:24:00] around, call it, you know, financial.
Growth or stability, rear progression, client longevity, a whole range of different kinds of outcomes that were measured by organizations. And we could statistically show that the individuals who had engaged in smarter collaboration during the times of crisis, better off, [00:24:20] and yet they were the rarity.
[00:24:22] Matt: irony? And I, I completely agree with you around the idea of soft skills being a misnomer for things like collaboration. I think it. It's a lazy way to look at it actually. When you, you look at all of the to point thousands of studies that speak to the clear links between intrinsic motivation, discretionary effort, and ultimately [00:24:40] productivity.
At the individual team and organizational level, there's clear science behind human behavior and the ability to work within teams. And I'm curious, you know, you talked about an only where during times of crisis people tend to. For lack of a better term, kind of withdraw into themselves, um, and take more of an individualistic view of that.
Uh, I'm curious if in that you found [00:25:00] patterns of maybe the reason why or some of the impacts that were driven from those types of behaviors, or maybe speak to a bit about what would it take to get people from that mind state into one that is more collaborative, that ultimately be proven to be
[00:25:15] Guest 1: more success?
I think a lot of this, Matt, stems to [00:25:20] the way performance is assessed and managed in organizations. And oftentimes Matt, we see a real discrepancy between what leaders say they value and what they're actually measuring people on inside organizations. So, for example, we hear many, many LE leaders talking about how [00:25:40] a.
More collaborative organization, one that engages in smart collaborations across functions or between different offices or with outside partners, is absolutely the way they need to go. And you know, we as a company are embracing this idea of smart collaboration. And yet, if you dig into their performance metrics, [00:26:00] by and large, they're highly individualistic and.
One thing we know is that, you know, in times of stress, whether you call it a crisis or just moments when people have a lot of, you know, cortisol and, you know, other stress hormones cosing through their bodies, we know that people become quite [00:26:20] blinkered in, in, you know, engage in, in, in tunnel vision inadvertently, right?
It, it becomes much harder to engage in ways that are outside your comfort zone when you're stressed out and. What people will focus on oftentimes is what's right in front of them. [00:26:40] And if you're dangling a carrot in front of an employee for them to accomplish some individualistic objectives, like hit your individual sales quota, why are we surprised when they do anything except focusing on their individual sales?
And you know, as I said, in [00:27:00] times of crisis, this becomes even harder for people to pull up from the task that's right in front of them and engage in discretionary behaviors. And so, Long before any stressors hit the organization, leaders need to [00:27:20] be taking a hard look at the way they assess people, the way they reward people.
What is it that they heroize inside their firm? And if it comes down to individual outcomes, they shouldn't be surprised that people are reluctant to engage in collabo.
[00:27:38] Matt: Incentives really do drive [00:27:40] behavior and as, as you mentioned, lot signs behind that as well. I'm curious, another wrinkle around collaboration.
We've, as a society, as a broader work culture, obviously gone through significant forest transformation over the last two and a half years. Most organizations now have moved to some form of hybrid work or remote work, [00:28:00] and I'm curious how the, the term collaboration. Evolves or shifts or needs to be looked at differently given a hybrid work setting or may not be all in the same room.
[00:28:09] Guest 1: I think one of the challenges of hybrid working that is that out of sight can mean out of mind, and that actually applies more to some people than others. [00:28:20] So again, some, you know, some research shows that people who. More peripheral in an organization. At the time when Covid struck, maybe they had just joined that company fairly recently, or maybe because of some demographic situation.
They were not as plugged [00:28:40] into, you know, the core work of the organization, or they didn't have as many relationships, or they didn't have mentors and sponsors. Lots of different indicators that somebody saw the periphery and what researchers found is, Over time with remote work and, and I think it's carrying into the hybrid environment, those people became further and further marginalized.[00:29:00]
And so now I think we are at a stage we very much need to hit the reset button and say, Hang on, do we have people you know, still inside our organization after these years who are. Not connected in the ways that they need to be. [00:29:20] Um, are those the ones who have now found their way back into regular working in the office, or are they marginalized and, and feel more comfortable for a whole variety of reasons?
Perhaps working from home? What's it going to take to reengage them? And I think [00:29:40] now more than ever, we have to be. Incredibly thoughtful and intentional about who we're collaborating with and at what time. Because if we simply take the, the, the lazy way and we, you know, walk through the office on the day or two weeks that we're actually there physically and we are.[00:30:00]
Highly likely to fall free to recency bias. You know, we walk through the office, we see, you know, a handful of people. We sit down at our desk about to launch a new project. You think who would be good at this? Naturally, our mind springs first to somebody that we've just seen or just had a, a, a personal conversation with.
And so [00:30:20] each of us needs to play a, an individual role as leaders and, you know, project coordinators, et cetera, and saying, Let's think twice. You know, first, who's the usual suspect, and then let's think again, who is not coming to mind as readily? Who would. [00:30:40] Get value from this opportunity. Who needs this kind of development experience?
Who has different kinds of perspectives that would shake us up and maybe get us out of our comfort zone? Maybe even create a little conflict in the team in terms of, you know, Coming at this problem from a different point of view. But isn't [00:31:00] that what we would need to really innovate? And I think it's just harder in a hybrid environment to start at the right place by getting the right people on board based on what they could contribute as opposed to who comes most readily to mind.
So you know, Matt, that's one of the things that I think needs to change in this hybrid environment is, [00:31:20] is getting past our biases about who's the right person on the team. I think we also need to be. Very clear about the difference between representation. Versus inclusion because it's easy to say we have, you know, a whole range of people on the team.
We've got, you know, people from new [00:31:40] joiners to, you know, long timers who have been around, you know, so we've covered the basis in terms of tenure and age and this and that characteristic. But simply having people on this team doesn't help unless those people A, feel confident and comfortable making contributions and.
Once [00:32:00] they do make a contribution that those pieces are valued and listened to and used, because it can actually backfire. If you bring people onto a team and then discount their contributions, you end up with people who are more cynical than when you've started. And
[00:32:18] Matt: I think a lot of it comes down to [00:32:20] adaptation.
I, I mean, it's fair to suggest that most of us grew up in an environment where that typical co-location environment where you're in the office with your folks, you're seeing them five days a week, um, you're building those relationships. And many of our leaders grew up and learned how to lead and manage that way.
So when we're, we're seeing modalities [00:32:40] and we're asking them to use a digital interface, for example, as the primary method of communication or delegation or follow up, that makes a lot of leaders quite uncomfortable because there is this bias of, one, to your point, recency. There's also a proximity bias that comes into effect as well, and.
It does require adaptation of really, because when you look [00:33:00] at the intentionality of hybrid work, all the activ, well, I should say, the vast majority of activities that we can perform in the same room, we can perform with the digital interface. It just does require more intentionality, requires the right tool sets, it requires the right change management and the right learning to be able to bring.
To bear and there needs to [00:33:20] be a fair amount of empathy because organizations are making a pretty significant shift in their work culture. And you know, there are individuals that I do believe during the pandemic, despite all the evidence of the contrary, kind of just stomached the change. And we're secretly hoping things would go back to the way they once were.
And they're now waking to the reality that in some cases, That's [00:33:40] just simply not going to happen. And it reinforces again, this, this principle of collaboration. Cause I agree with you, it's so easy to discount or to completely miss altogether contributions from team members if you're not interacting with them on a frequent basis, or if the method of interaction that you predominantly, um, interact with them [00:34:00] on is not your preferred or most comfortable method.
Um, you know, I think about some of my colleagues. And we have Zoom calls. It's just like tell, it's not a comfortable modality for them. They're not super engaged, they're not very present. Um, and therefore we have to be more thoughtful about scheduling times to make sense for them. We have to have more structured agendas and [00:34:20] clear actionables.
You mentioned earlier the. The value and the, and the, the incredible gift of reverse engineering outcomes. Um, using, you know, the same methodology but transferring it for a 21st century way of doing business in a lot of ways that is now asynchronous, that is now remote, is now digital first. Um, does present new challenges around [00:34:40] collaboration and leadership and teamwork.
You know, I'm curious from your perspective, given all the research that you've done and kind of knowing where we've come from and. Where we sit today, what are some of the things that you envision for the broader US in the future as a zoo collaboration?
[00:34:57] Guest 1: Let me tell you a couple of things that I hope. [00:35:00] I hope that we stop talking about collaboration as a soft skill because I think it does undervalue the way that collaboration helps people achieve far more than they could do on their own.
I see. Shift underway actually. And so I, I, I'm fairly [00:35:20] confident that we can predict with some degree of accuracy that in particular fields and uh, and particular areas that people will begin to understand that collaboration is. Not the nice to have that they do once the real work is done, but is [00:35:40] genuine, genuinely the way they get the most important work done.
So that's my hope and, and that's my prediction, is that people will continue to become more strategic about when they employ smarter collaboration and, you know, when indeed the they're, they're up against the limits of when collaboration isn't going to add enough value. [00:36:00] I think as I look ahead, I also have.
Optimism. I, I'm not sure how much confidence I have, but I have optimism that people will continue to embrace. Wide variety of differences. And so in my first book, Smart Collaboration, I was [00:36:20] mainly talking about different kinds of experts, you know, and that could be different functions, you know, how do you get marketing and sales and engineering to work together in a product company?
Or how do you get oncologists and. Geneticists and patient advocates to work together better at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. [00:36:40] You know, those were the kinds of experts I was talking about coming together in my first book in Smarter Collaboration, the new book we're talking about lots of different kinds of.
Diversity we're talking about, you know, the, all the classic kinds, but you know, very much lived experiences. People who have overcome certain, you know, physical [00:37:00] disabilities or who have, you know, very different cognitive styles and people who have, um, you know, cultural backgrounds or, or ethnic backgrounds that allow them to see opportunities where other people see challenges.
And I'm starting to see. A much wider [00:37:20] embrace of this idea of differences and genuine embrace of how uncomfortable as it may be. Those differences truly add value when we're talking about addressing major. Multifaceted complex kinds of [00:37:40] problems. So Matt, those are the two of the things I think a lot about.
And as I look ahead, I mean, I've got two daughters, uh, you know, in, in their teenage years, and I look at how they approach really big, complex, challenging, nuanced issues. And [00:38:00] they're the ones who give me the optimism that as much. Uncertainty is uncomfortable. There's an embrace of this sort of ambiguity that can allow us to take those sorts of differences and see where they take us.
[00:38:15] Matt: And how about yourself? What's next for you? What do you see your future looking like the
[00:38:19] Guest 1: next few years? [00:38:20] Oh my goodness. I wish I had that crystal ball. Um, right. . I am so excited about what I'm doing right now. I mean, I don't know if it came through or not, but I am pretty passionate about this idea of smarter collaboration because, you know, I have been working on this as a research project for well over a decade at Harvard.
And I've been working with [00:38:40] organizations for nearly that long and trying to put some of these practices into place and we're now at the stage we see some real change inside organizations and I get LinkedIn messages or emails or you know, messages out of the blue from people saying, Wow, this has really changed.
My career trajectory, [00:39:00] I've been able to contribute in ways I never thought I could, or this has made me such a better leader where I talk to my kids differently now that I'm embracing these principles and it's helped my family relationships and so, I'm passionate about this topic because I think that the more people [00:39:20] who get on board with the idea of smarter collaboration, the more likely we are not only to address society's biggest, most complex challenges, but to be able to engage people in using their strengths in ways that are really meaningful for them.
And so I don't think I'm believing [00:39:40] this area anytime soon. Smarter collaboration is. Itself a nuanced and complex topic. I'm learning all the time by having the privilege of working with all different kinds of organizations around the planet. And I hope that I continue to engage with lots of different kinds of people at all [00:40:00] levels in their life and and professional journey because it keeps me sharp and it allows me to do what matters most, which is continually give back given the fortune that I've had throughout my.
[00:40:13] Matt: Thank you so much for joining me today. It's been a really interesting conversation. Your passion absolutely shines [00:40:20] through, and what I'll do is I'll make sure I link all of your details in. The podcast. So folks wanna connect with you on LinkedIn. They can do so. I'm also gonna link details to your first book and now your latest title, and encourage folks to pick those up if you're looking at trying to get a better understanding of the hard skill that is collaboration, whether it's in the present [00:40:40] tense or looking into the future.
Heidi, thank you so much. Thank
[00:40:42] Guest 1: you, Matt. Really enjoyed our conversation.
[00:40:54] Matt: OHR is a digital transformation consultancy working at the intersection of strategy, technology, [00:41:00] and people operations. We partner with organizations, private equity and venture capital firms to accelerate value creation. And identify the organization's highest leverage initiatives. And this can take place in many forms from strategic planning and alignment to technology, procurement, implementation, and integration along with [00:41:20] organizational design, process reengineering and change management.
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