Break Through Ministry Silos with 4-Phase Collaboration

Below is a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

>> Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<


Key leaders only think about their ministry area and not the entire organization.

Divisions are necessary in all organizations, even churches. They provide the structure that allows your ministry to function smoothly. Every organization is divided into divisions, functions, or some type of grouping. Doing so allows each group to develop the special skill sets needed to make it function.

But when departments or functional areas become isolated from one another it causes problems. Leaders often refer to this as creating silos.

But organizational silos can also cause problems – the same structural benefits listed above also prevent the flow of information, focus, and control outward. In order for an organization to work efficiently, decisions need to be made across silos.

To break the down the barriers of silos in your organization, the goal is not to destroy the meaningful structural divisions themselves but to eliminate the problems that silos cause.

Many organizations will face the following barriers:

  • Uncoordinated decision-making
  • Competing priorities
  • Dilution of energy and effort

The following solution will help you break down the silos in your organization.

Solution: Rewire teams and process for maximum collaboration.

THE QUICK SUMMARY

Thomas Edison created multi-billion dollar industries that still exist today. What many people don’t realize is that his innovations were generated through focused approaches to teamwork and collaboration.

Authored by the great grandniece of Thomas Edison, Midnight Lunch provides an intriguing look at how to use Edison’s collaboration methods to strengthen live and virtual teams today.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

A church accomplishing its mission requires many people working on multiple teams to be successful. Often, these teams drift into a pattern of accomplishing things “their way,” erroneously thinking that what’s best for their team will be best for the organization as a whole.

This lack of coordinated decision making across the organization is the third indicator of silos in the organization.

True collaboration operates like an invisible glue that fuses learning, insight, purpose, complexity, and results together in one continuous effort.

Thomas Edison viewed true collaboration among his teams as a value creation continuum, recognizing that complexity was a norm that all team members needed to understand and address. Here is a four-phase model of the collaboration process that translates Edison’s decades of groundbreaking practices into language for the 21st Century leader. A core question serves as a launching point for the exploration of each phase.

> How do we create the foundation for true collaboration to flourish?

Phase 1 – Capacity: Select small, diverse teams of two to eight people who will thrive in an environment of discovery learning and collegiality.

> How can our collaboration team reframe the problem at hand, driving the greatest range of creativity and breakthrough solutions?

Phase 2 – Context: Focus the outlook of the team toward development of new context that broadly frames the problem or challenge under consideration. Use a combination of individual learning plus hands-on activities to drive perspectives for potential solutions.

> Can the collaboration team stay the course and continue forward despite disagreements?

Phase 3 – Coherence: Maintain collaboration momentum, creating frameworks for progress through inspiration and inspirational leadership even though disagreements may exist. Newly discover, or re-emphasize, the shared purpose that binds the team together.

> How can our collaboration team leverage internal and external networked resources nimbly and with speed?

Phase 4 – Complexity: Equip and reskill teams to implement new ideas or new solutions using internally and externally networked resources, rapidly accessing or managing complex data streams the team must navigate. Leave a footprint that contributes to a broader collective intelligence.

Sarah Miller Caldicott, Midnight Lunch

A NEXT STEP

Church leadership teams aren’t working to invent the next light bulb, but Edison’s Four Collaboration Phases can be instructive for leaders who want to break down silos on their teams.

Within the four phases of capacity, context, coherence, and complexity lies the invisible glue that can help your organization develop true collaboration practices to achieve your mission.

Phase 1 – Capacity

Create your own “midnight lunch” experience by ordering pizza or other takeout food. Pick a unique place in your normal environment that is not normally associated with regular tasks, or go offsite. Use the informal atmosphere to foster conversations about interest areas of all your group members. Actively listen to the conversations, and develop a deeper level of knowledge – and connection – with your teammates.

Phase 2 – Context

As a team, take 10 minutes and create an individual list of the various sources of information you draw from each week. Does your team see a pattern in their lists? Now challenge them to create another list of five additional sources that will intentionally shift the context of their information-gathering. During weekly meetings, take five minutes to share how this new context is broadening their ministry context.

Phase 3 – Coherence

When team members begin to use self-referencing language (I, me, mine) more than team-referencing language (us, our, ours), it is an indicator that defenses are being raised and the team is in danger of losing coherence. Often, the language of the team is the first indicator of a team losing its momentum toward a shared goal. Lead your team to be constantly aware of their language, and guide them to practice inclusive language by first modeling it yourself.

Phase 4 – Complexity

Among all organizations, the church has the most potential for the existence of excessive hierarchy. To overcome this, lead your team to clear away internal roadblocks which add unnecessary time and complexity to your process. The use of the strategy map process above can be both a beginning point and continual guide to your journey toward simplification.

Closing Thought

Collaboration is the key to breaking down the organizational silos that are keeping you from achieving your mission.

To learn more about breaking down the silos in your organization, start a conversation with the Auxano team today.

Taken from SUMS Remix 9-3, published March 2015.


>> Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

Download PDF

Tags: , , , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

3 Ways to Gauge Great Ministry Team Collaboration

Collaborative teams represented a crucial driver of Thomas Edison’s legendary innovation success.  Although we often envision Edison as a ‘lone wolf’ who generated innovation breakthroughs by closeting himself in an attic or remote laboratory cubicle, in fact his innovations embraced the work of small, diverse teams collaborating in vibrant environments. 

Never has it been more important to examine the team collaboration practices we engage in today. With smart devices numbering in the billions across the globe, face-to-face approaches familiar to Baby Boomers and other seasoned leaders are shifting to online collaboration by including virtual team formats popular with Generation Y.

A recent study conducted by Forrester Consulting, a highly regarded technology research group, revealed that 40% of US companies today are operating with some form of virtual teams. This includes hybrid teams, where several members connect ‘live’ from the same geography while others participate remotely. Forrester projects that today’s levels will rise to 56% in the next few years.

The notion of team collaboration, and deriving the best possible performance from teams working both face-to-face and remotely, is taking on increased prominence.  With this new rise comes the need for leaders to determine, “How can I tell if my people are actually collaborating?”

Here are three ways to gauge whether collaboration is present in your teams’ efforts, or whether some of the collaborative efforts you see just lie on the surface.

1)      Team members discover and learn together, rather than merely ‘putting in their time.’  Central to Edison’s collaboration practices was the notion that collaboration itself involved discovery learning, not just the mere completion of tasks. Much of our definition of teamwork is based on having people simply show up at meetings, and contribute the information they were tasked to provide.

However, Edison’s definition of collaboration meant that small groups of people were truly rolling up their sleeves and learning together, not just ticking off checklists.  Greg Cox, President of the Dale Carnegie Training offices in Chicago – one of the largest in the company’s global network – notes: “Collaboration is not the same thing as teamwork. Teamwork is simply doing your part.  Collaboration involves leveraging the power of every individual to bring out each other’s strengths and differences.”

To determine if team members are truly collaborating, check to see whether they are learning together, or simply working together.

2)      Truly collaborative teams mix generalists and specialists.  Edison was constantly wary of falling into ‘thinking ruts.’  He went to great lengths to ensure that his ideas were generated from a diverse array of origins rather than just one or two.  Edison believed it was crucial to form context around a challenge or problem, and not simply tackle it through raw facts or data.  This meant that Edison’s teams consisted of individuals with diverse forms of expertise – sometimes including people whose core capabilities might even seem tangential to the work at hand. For example, a chemist and a glassblower served on the small team that solved the thorny challenge of incandescent lighting.  Edison valued their root forms of thinking such as understanding patterns and relationships between liquids as well as solid materials.

Examine whether you are putting too many specialists on a team from a single functional area, or from a particular thinking style.  Edison said, “It is not always necessary, perhaps not always desirable, to be a specialist in a subject in order to make suggestions related to which start useful angles of research. We specialists are likely to get into ruts of our specialties out of which it is difficult to progress.”  Collaboration is fueled by exchanges representing a diverse array of perspectives.

3)      Listen for the language of collaboration rather than the language of power.  In my new book Midnight Lunch: The 4 Phases of Team Collaboration Success, from Thomas Edison’s Lab, I reference research conducted by Anne Donnellon – a specialist in team dynamics, and author of the book Team Talk.  Donnellon indicates that the language used by team members in a group setting is a strong indicator of how ‘collaborative’ they are versus how vested they are in their own individual interests.   

A team which appears to be collaborating — but which in fact may be simply masking turf struggles –will demonstrate what Donnellon refers to as displays of “high power.”  This shows up as corrections, directives given abruptly from one member to another, sudden topic shifts, or outright verbal aggression. “Low power,” on the other hand, is revealed when team members constantly apologize, offer disclaimers, use excessive politeness, or hedge.  Not much collaboration happens in either type of group.

Collaborative power is present when teams are able to discuss a variety of themes in a casual and free-flowing way. Genuine expressions of cooperation and emphasis on common viewpoints are the norm. You can easily hear the differences between a group that is stuck in “high power” or “low power” modes rather than accelerating their efforts through collaborative power.

Collaboration is crucial to the competitiveness of today’s teams, and starts with the belief that collaboration itself is a unique superskill we all must master.

Read more from Sarah here.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Miller Caldicott

Sarah Miller Caldicott

A great grandniece of Thomas Edison, Sarah Miller Caldicott has been engaged in creativity and innovation throughout her life. Inspired by a family lineage of inventors dating back five generations, Sarah spent the first 15 years of her 25-year career as an executive with Global 500 firms including Quaker Oats/Pepsi and the Helene Curtis subsidiary of Unilever. Working with global teams, Sarah spearheaded major innovation initiatives in North America, Europe, and Asia. Concerned that America risks losing its innovation edge, Sarah spent three years researching Edison’s innovation methods with experts at Rutgers University. She co-authored the first book ever written on the subject of Thomas Edison’s world-changing innovation methods. Entitled Innovate Like Edison: The Five Step System for Breakthrough Business Success, Sarah’s book has been translated into 5 languages and is used as an innovation textbook in graduate and undergraduate programs across the US. Sarah's newest book, Midnight Lunch: The 4 Phases of Team Collaboration Success, has just been released from Wiley publishing. Midnight Lunch reveals how to develop collaboration as a backbone for innovation success in the digital era.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Midnight Lunch Team Worksheets

Sara Miller Caldicott, great grandniece of Thomas Edison and author of the new book Midnight Lunch, has translated Edison’s world-changing innovation methods for use in the 21st century. Here are some of her thoughts on collaboration:

True collaboration embraces:

  • discovery learning mindset versus a pure task orientation
  • A belief in anticipating and creating rather than merely reacting and responding
  • Presence of inspiration across multiple facets of both individual and team endeavors
  • Coherence of purpose
  • A dedication to elevating the performance of every team member
  • Connections to human and social networks of influence

Do these qualities sound different from the ones valued by your team? Do they draw upon ideas that feel new or seem broader than your current concept of what teamwork embraces?

Based on experience, the answer would be yes.

So what are you going to do about it?

Caldicott has developed a series of 12 worksheets so your team can integrate its project work with true collaboration concepts in her new book, Midnight Lunch: The 4 Phases of Team Collaboration Success, from Thomas Edison’s Lab.

Why not integrate these worksheets into a weekly learning exercise with your team?

 

 

Download all the worksheets here:

Week 1: The Roots of the 4 Phases of Collaboration

Week 2: Global Forces Impacting Collaboration

Week 3: Phase 1 – Capacity – Diversity

Week 4: Phase 2 – Capacity – Small Teams Foster Collegiality

Week 5: Phase 2 – Context – Solo Meld Expands Individual Creative Efforts

Week 6: Phase 3 – Context – The Pathway to Breakthroughs

Week 7: Phase 3 – Coherence: Deepening Bonds Through Inspiration

Week 8: Phase 3 – Coherence: Fostering Debate and Progress

Week 9: Phase 4 – Complexity: Spotting and Leveraging Complex Systems

Week 10: Phase 4 – Complexity: Social Media and Viral Networks

Week 11: Phase 4 – Complexity: Harnessing Collective Intelligence

Week 12: Facing the Future: The Long-Term Impacts of Collaboration

 

Read more from Sarah Miller Caldicott here.

Purchase Midnight Lunch here or as a Kindle version here.

Read our Sums book summary of Midnight Lunch here. Go here to register for our biweekly release of future Sums.

Download PDF

Tags: , , , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Miller Caldicott

Sarah Miller Caldicott

A great grandniece of Thomas Edison, Sarah Miller Caldicott has been engaged in creativity and innovation throughout her life. Inspired by a family lineage of inventors dating back five generations, Sarah spent the first 15 years of her 25-year career as an executive with Global 500 firms including Quaker Oats/Pepsi and the Helene Curtis subsidiary of Unilever. Working with global teams, Sarah spearheaded major innovation initiatives in North America, Europe, and Asia. Concerned that America risks losing its innovation edge, Sarah spent three years researching Edison’s innovation methods with experts at Rutgers University. She co-authored the first book ever written on the subject of Thomas Edison’s world-changing innovation methods. Entitled Innovate Like Edison: The Five Step System for Breakthrough Business Success, Sarah’s book has been translated into 5 languages and is used as an innovation textbook in graduate and undergraduate programs across the US. Sarah's newest book, Midnight Lunch: The 4 Phases of Team Collaboration Success, has just been released from Wiley publishing. Midnight Lunch reveals how to develop collaboration as a backbone for innovation success in the digital era.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Midnight Lunch: The 4 Phases of Team Collaboration Success

According to Sarah Miller Caldicott, great grand niece of Thomas Edison, Edison viewed true collaboration as a value creation continuum. If one were to find a single notebook entry capturing Edison’s definition of true collaboration, Caldicott believes it would read something like this:

Applying discovery learning within a context of complexity, inspired by a common goal or a shared purpose.

True collaboration for Edison operated like an invisible glue that fused learning, insight, purpose, complexity and results together in one continuous effort.

Translating Edison’s decades of groundbreaking practices into language for the 21st Century leader, Caldicott has developed a four-phase model of the collaboration process.

  • How do we create the foundation for true collaboration to flourish?

Phase 1 – Capacity: Select small, diverse teams of two to eight people who will thrive in an environment of discovery learning and collegiality.

  • How can our collaboration team reframe the problem at hand, driving the greatest range of creativity and breakthrough solutions?

Phase 2 – Context: Focus the outlook of the team toward development of new context that broadly frames the problem or challenge under consideration. Use a combination of individual learning plus hands-on activities to drive perspectives for potential solutions.

  • Can the collaboration team stay the course and continue forward despite disagreements?

Phase 3 – Coherence: Maintain collaboration momentum, creating frameworks for progress through inspiration, and inspirational leadership even though disagreements may exist. Newly discover, or re-emphasize, the shared purpose that binds the team together.

  • How can our collaboration team leverage internal and external networked resources nimbly and with speed?

Phase 4 – Complexity: Equip and reskill teams to implement new ideas or new solutions using internally and externally networked resources, rapidly accessing or managing complex data streams the team must navigate. Leave a footprint that contributes to a broader collective intelligence.

Caldicott has developed a series of worksheets so your team can integrate its project work with true collaboration concepts in her new book, Midnight Lunch: The 4 Phases of Team Collaboration Success, from Thomas Edison’s Lab.

Why not integrate these worksheets into a weekly learning exercise with your team?

In honor of Edison’s achievements not only through his inventions but also in the area of collaboration, today begins a 12 week series of downloads you can use with your team. Each Monday beginning today and continuing for 12 weeks, a new download will be available for your team’s use.

You can download worksheet #1 here.

Edison leaves us a legacy we can return to over and over again as we newly shape a future that embraces the highest and best of our collaborative spirit.

If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.    –Thomas Edison

Go Aheadastound yourself…

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Inventing the Future, Edison Style

Can we learn to be innovative? What factors allow us to establish a vibrant relationship with the future?

Thomas Edison was the most outstanding figure in an era marked by an extraordinary confluence of American innovation – including the work of Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, George Eastman, Harvey Firestone, John D. Rockefeller, George Westinghouse, and Andrew Carnegie – that accelerated America’s leadership in global business.Edison understood that innovation is much more than invention. Through the establishment of his two extraordinary laboratories at Menlo Park and West Orange, NJ, Edison drove innovation on many levels, including strategic technological, product/service, process, and design innovations.

How did Edison excel in so many different kinds of innovation?

Thomas Edison’s great grand niece, Sarah Miller Caldicott, will retrace her famous relative’s footsteps and explore his timeless methods to innovation success in a talk that will inspire and inform. Her approach is based on Edison’s Five Competencies of Innovation.

Watch the video here:

Inventing the Future, Edison Style

Read more from Sarah here.

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Miller Caldicott

Sarah Miller Caldicott

A great grandniece of Thomas Edison, Sarah Miller Caldicott has been engaged in creativity and innovation throughout her life. Inspired by a family lineage of inventors dating back five generations, Sarah spent the first 15 years of her 25-year career as an executive with Global 500 firms including Quaker Oats/Pepsi and the Helene Curtis subsidiary of Unilever. Working with global teams, Sarah spearheaded major innovation initiatives in North America, Europe, and Asia. Concerned that America risks losing its innovation edge, Sarah spent three years researching Edison’s innovation methods with experts at Rutgers University. She co-authored the first book ever written on the subject of Thomas Edison’s world-changing innovation methods. Entitled Innovate Like Edison: The Five Step System for Breakthrough Business Success, Sarah’s book has been translated into 5 languages and is used as an innovation textbook in graduate and undergraduate programs across the US. Sarah's newest book, Midnight Lunch: The 4 Phases of Team Collaboration Success, has just been released from Wiley publishing. Midnight Lunch reveals how to develop collaboration as a backbone for innovation success in the digital era.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Closing the Collaboration Gap on Your Leadership Team

In an age of smart devices and breathtaking changes to familiar business models, innovation continues to magnetize our attention. Every day the business press is packed with information on how to innovate more effectively. Sage advice ranges from transforming an entire organizational culture to shifting accepted go-to-market practices, or adopting radically new business models.

And lots of this advice is really good. Much of it is well written, and well researched.

Consider the huge body of material from respected innovation champions like Gary Hamel Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble, IDEO mavens David Kelley and Tom KelleyFaisal Hoque, or the man who – in the eyes of many – first positioned innovation as a discipline worth studying, Clayton Christensen.

So, with all this good guidance, why aren’t we doing better at innovation? Why don’t we see successful innovation initiatives being hailed everywhere we look?

THE COLLABORATION GAP

I believe there’s a crucial gap in our approach to innovation: we’ve forgotten that collaboration plays a vital role in the process. In fact, I would go even further and say we’re lacking a baseline sense of what collaboration really is. This gap is especially dangerous given the expanding connection between human beings and virtual technologies…globally.

I’ve had a chance to deeply research the process of collaboration for my new book Midnight Lunch . The book takes a focused look at what I call ‘true collaboration,’ and offers specific action steps we can employ to engage collaborative innovation in our digital era. (If you’d like to delve into key themes from the book, Midnight Lunch is featured in the December/January edition of Fast Company magazine.)

Why is collaboration such a big gap in our innovation efforts? For one thing, collaboration is quixotic. It’s hard to measure. Collaboration requires meshing ‘soft skills’ like communication, inspiration, and leadership with hard skills like software programming, manufacturing prowess, or scientific acumen.

Because collaboration engages shoulder-to-shoulder processes which often make leaders squeamish, we don’t hear the C-suite mentioning collaboration in their organization’s core values. (Maybe it’s also because we rarely find real collaboration in the C-suite at all.)

So, where can we go to get some solid collaboration basics?

I recommend we look to one of the world’s greatest innovators: Thomas Edison. Odd as it may sound to those who still falsely describe Edison as a solo-preneur, Edison offers today’s executives a solid model for collaboration – especially in our digital age.

While we cannot draw a straight line from Edison’s era to our own, there is much we can learn from a man who spearheaded the development of 6 industries in less than 40 years. Working collaboratively with dozens of workers in his storied Menlo Park and West Orange, New Jersey laboratories, by 1910 Edison and his teams had churned out patents and industries valued at more than $6.7 billion – a figure that today would exceed $100 billion.

Although patent law at the turn of the 20th century only allowed a maximum of two people to appear on a patent, it’s clear from Edison’s notebooks that he served as a crucial catalyst for innovations derived in collaboration with a myriad of folks in his labs. Contrary to the popular lore that brings Edison to mind alongside tales of American inventors working solo in their garage, Edison collaborated with others even when he was a teenage inventor – and never stopped.

WHAT IS A “MIDNIGHT LUNCH?”

We can find the foundations for Edison’s collaborative culture stemming from a compelling practice called “midnight lunch.” Midnight lunch was the affectionate slang Edison’s Menlo Park crew used to refer to the meal Edison ordered in at about 9 PM on nights when workers stayed late at the lab to complete their experiments.

Edison would often finish his workday at 5 PM, head home for dinner with his family, then return to the lab if he had projects to oversee, or if he wanted to check on how key experiments were progressing. Starting at about 7 PM, all who were still present at the Menlo Park lab would roll up their sleeves, and share insights about the experiments they were undertaking. This meant that employees from any specialty could mingle with others holding completely different backgrounds, and learn from them. Often these casual, unstructured conversations yielded deeply creative outcomes.

After an hour or two, there would be a pause in this heady dialogue. Edison would order in sandwiches and beverages for everyone from a local tavern. Everyone present would kick back, eat, sing songs, tell stories, play music, and generally let their hair down — regardless of title or tenure, there were no limits on participation.

During midnight lunch, no one was ‘monitoring’ things. No one was dreaming up something to put on your performance appraisal. From apprentices all the way up to Edison himself, during midnight lunch, everyone simply engaged their best thinking in a casual, hands-on environment. In short, workers became colleagues.

Midnight lunches formed the foundation for what I call ‘true collaboration’ – a process outlined in depth in my new book Midnight Lunch: The 4 Phases of Team Collaboration Success, from Thomas Edison’s Lab (Wiley). The practice of midnight lunch forms a crucial part of Phase 1 – Capacity, where the core underpinnings of collaboration are established.

Today, with the global proliferation of smart devices and the rise of virtual teams, we need to remember the power of simple rituals like midnight lunch. We need to draw forward the principles and practices that create ‘invisible glue’ and collegiality between team members. Turning on a computer monitor and logging into an online meeting is not enough. A foundation for collegiality must also exist.

Keep these factors in mind when seeking to build collegiality within your own collaboration team:

  • Create opportunities for team members to meet and ‘talk shop’ while socializing in a casual environment
  • Ensure that hands-on project engagement is a part of your efforts
  • Listen for – and use – language that is “we” focused and not “me” focused

Read more from Sarah here.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Miller Caldicott

Sarah Miller Caldicott

A great grandniece of Thomas Edison, Sarah Miller Caldicott has been engaged in creativity and innovation throughout her life. Inspired by a family lineage of inventors dating back five generations, Sarah spent the first 15 years of her 25-year career as an executive with Global 500 firms including Quaker Oats/Pepsi and the Helene Curtis subsidiary of Unilever. Working with global teams, Sarah spearheaded major innovation initiatives in North America, Europe, and Asia. Concerned that America risks losing its innovation edge, Sarah spent three years researching Edison’s innovation methods with experts at Rutgers University. She co-authored the first book ever written on the subject of Thomas Edison’s world-changing innovation methods. Entitled Innovate Like Edison: The Five Step System for Breakthrough Business Success, Sarah’s book has been translated into 5 languages and is used as an innovation textbook in graduate and undergraduate programs across the US. Sarah's newest book, Midnight Lunch: The 4 Phases of Team Collaboration Success, has just been released from Wiley publishing. Midnight Lunch reveals how to develop collaboration as a backbone for innovation success in the digital era.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.