The Value of Collaborative Thinking

I used to think that leaders liked change and followers didn’t. I had this idea that leaders were out on the edge and they had a machete and they were cutting a path through the jungles of life, and they were always out in the front leading change, and the followers were way back crossing their arms singing, “I Shall Not Be Moved.”

What I’ve learned is this–that leaders don’t like change any more than followers unless it is their idea! Think about it for a moment-when change does not occur in an organization, it’s never a follower’s problem because followers do what followers do-followers follow. When change does not occur in the organization, it’s because some of the leaders in that organization didn’t like the change. And why don’t leaders like the changes? Because they’re always asking, “What’s this going to do to me? How’s this going to affect my turf?” And they say to themselves, “This could affect my turf. This could hurt me.”

Followers seldom stop change because they lack influence; leaders often stop change because they have influence. The potential for change in your organization increases with participation. What you want to do is involve as many people as you possibly can in the change process. In fact, successful people know how to get shared thinking in their arena. They not only have their thinking but they know how to bring people around and say, “What do you think about this?”

A great idea just doesn’t become a great idea. A great idea is a compounding effect of a lot of good ideas; it’s out of the getting a lot of good ideas on the table that you get a great idea. The right kind of collaboration will drastically improve the quality of the ideas being shared. So the value of understanding shared thinking is that the more good people you bring into a room and get around the table, the higher your odds of getting great ideas.

I do this exercise all the time: Every week, I put different groups of people around a table, depending on what I’m trying to accomplish, to get their ideas on the table. I don’t, however, just open up the door and say, “Okay, what do you all think?” You don’t want to do that because most people don’t think. You don’t want to say, “Everybody tell us what you think.” Ninety percent of the people don’t think at all. Ninety percent of the people just look for a line that’s moving and get in it!

So how do you know what kind of person to bring around the table? Listed below are ten kinds of people you want.

1. People whose greatest desire is the success of the idea.

  • You don’t want people around the table who want to see the idea fail. You have to have people around the table who are committed to the success of the idea.

2. People who can compound another person’s thought.

  • You want to bring people around the table who can take somebody else’s thought and play off of it and tweak it and make it better.

3. People who emotionally can handle the changes of conversation.

  • The creative conversation is going to go left and right, and up and down. It’s an emotional roller coaster, and you want someone who won’t let their feelings get in the way of progress.

4. People who appreciate strengths in others where they are weak.

  • These are people who can complement one another. For example, where you’ve got one person who’s a focus thinker and another person who’s a creative thinker, they will have to be able to appreciate the input of the other.

5. People who recognize their place of value at the table.

  • They know why they’re there. If they don’t, you will have a problem.

6. People who place what is best for them below what is best for the team.

  • These people know to check their egos at the door. Subordinating your own agenda to what is best for everyone is always good.

7. People who can bring out the best thinking of those around them.

  • When somebody comes up with a great thought, they can probe a little and say, “Come on, go a little bit deeper here. Talk to me a little bit more. Give me some more out of this.”

8. People who possess maturity, experience and success in the issue being discussed.

  • I want all three. I don’t want maturity without success, I don’t want experience without success, and I certainly don’t want success without either.

9. People who take ownership and responsibility for the decisions that are made.

  • They have the ability to come to the table and, after there is a shared concept and idea or thought that evolves around it, they can take ownership of it.

10. People who can leave the table with a “we” attitude and not a “me” attitude.

  • Teamwork is essential to accomplishing great things. You always want people who are willing and able to grasp this concept on your team.

Commit to getting these ten types of people around the table in a shared thinking meeting and watch the results!

Happy Thanksgiving,

Chicago CIO and Entrepreneur. Started @Orbitz, @AssureFlight, Team ITG, YourPrivateLine and others. I Love technology, startups and meeting interesting people.

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