Monday, November 14, 2005

Collaboration for Innovation

Earlier, I described organization as being relatively static in order to implement an established process. When the value implement is replaced by innovate, the dynamics of collaboration emerge. A participant follows by responding and leads by improvising. Respect for the values lead and follow permits them to coexist.

In a collaboration, often with tacit understanding, the lead is accorded to whoever is able to make the best improvised contribution at any given time. Other collaborators follow by responding to this lead until its consequences are complete and the group is ready to be led by another act of improvisation. Until an effective process is learned, the reality is more chaotic than this description suggests. Then, with organization in concert with the collaboration, we are able to implement and innovate, which is a condition for a sustainable enterprise that creates new products and services even while delivering existing products and services.

A similar process occurs when an individual wants to innovate. There is a switching of thought and action back and forth between improvising and responding. I acquire a new thought or perform a new action and then respond to it by accepting it as a contribution and following through, or rejecting it for another improvisation. In a similar way a designer seeking solutions, experiments with alternatives until one is found that s/he can apply.

As the model is structured, all the leadership practices carry equal weight. However, respecting could be the most fundamental because it guides us with respect to when to lead and when to follow.

(This post is part of a series presenting a model of leadership for comments. The image is of one side of a tetrahedral model that can be viewed interactively in A Vision of Leadership (now Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation). This is the fourth of the sides I am calling outcomes. The four corners, the values of leadership, will complete this series of posts.)

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