Thursday, October 23, 2008

Collaboration and Complex Challenges

A friend of mine Andre Martin co-authored a research white paper on 10 Trends in Leadership Development when he was a research associate at the Center for Creative Leadership. The study asked 247 senior executive around the globe about 10 leadership trends in business. The goal was to asses these trends, the obstacles they create, and their potential impact on leading organizations.

This white paper updated the way I thought about leadership, and confirmed what I intuitively knew about the challenges leaders face in today’s global workplace. However, I found the paper equally maddening as liberating. I share it with you and think it is a “must read” for any one of us charged with helping businesses share and create knowledge. Trend 4 Collaboration Nation was particularly maddening . “97 per cent of executives surveyed believed leaders in their organization must collaboration to succeed . . . However, only 47 percent of 115 executives believe leaders in their organizations are skilled collaborators.”

As a student of KM does this surprise you? I doubt it. If I was to collect stories from all of you, no doubt you would substantiate these findings. In fact, we could be happy about these numbers as they represent an opportunity in the marketplace. Yet, it is maddening because those same leaders who assert collaboration is important are often the most resistant to adopting new technology which may help them do just that. If I was a bit more jaded, I would share the perspective of my Gen Y friend. “It is because Boomers run the world. Thing will change overnight once they leave the C Suite.”

As a cusp Gen Xer/Boomer myself, I have to grant a grain of truth to her statement. She was particularly infuriated because executives at her firm banned instant messaging. Regardless of your view, it does raise an interesting discussion. How do you help leaders develop collaboration strategies if they are not willing to try new technologies designed to help them do just that? Unlike my friend, my experience has not necessarily broken down across generational boundaries. Andre’s research says leaders must live beyond organizational norms, and still manage to succeed. When I have worked most effectively with leaders it is in these circumstances. They have allowed me to help them expand the walls of their own organizations whether business unit, department, or silo to connect information in a meaningful way. Like it or not, technology has always been a component.

-Tracey Wik