Co-authored by Michael Shell and Annette Karseras
When have you experienced true Team Collaboration? How can you encourage true Team Collaboration in your organization? These were the questions that kicked off November 28, 2014 Global Leadership Cafe in Tokyo, Japan.
Instinctively, we all know something about collaboration. We are social animals after all. But why is it that some teams just jell, while others struggle? Individually we cannot solve the global scale issues of today. We need to enhance our ability to coordinate collectively – within and between organizations and, at the micro-level, as teams.
The Team Collaboration Café began by exploring teamwork as an interplay of leadership and followership. Forming first pairs and then small groups, the 40-strong participants played a mirroring game, taking turns to physically lead or follow the movements of their partners; exploring the dynamics of collaboration as the leader-follower roles moved fluidly between the players. We had fun and we learned a lot.
From bodywork, to café style discussion, small groups shared and mingled. Memories of trust and safety rediscovered on one discussion table, bled into experiences of alignment and synergy spoken on another, were refracted through lenses of shared accountability, harnessing diverse expertise, celebrating wins and scores of other perspectives.
Finally, participants took insights from these variously re-invoked pasts and distilled them into an action; one small step each person could take individually in their own organization – to move purposefully nearer to achieving true collaboration.
Some of the shared commitments include:
- Scheduling regular meetings to share passions
- Saying thank you every day
- Practicing Deep Democracy – meaning listening and respecting every voice
- Sharing self more and be more open
- Putting myself in other people’s shoes
- Focusing on the quality of my relationships
- Starting conversations by asking questions, not by giving the answers
We’d love to hear from you! How can you enhance team collaboration at work?
What is conflict? What can conflict create? These were the first two questions discussed at the Global Leadership Café held at the Tsukiji Honganji Temple on June 26, 2014. The diversity of input on these questions and the core question, What Can We do to Encourage Creative Conflict? were not only insightful, these conversation led to a major shift in the way conflict will now be experienced by some of the participants.
The evening began with some social networking and then each participant took a seat at one of the 10 tables set up with paper, colored pens and playdough. After an introduction to our topic, we took a moment to get quiet and check inside to see how we were feeling about the subjectmatter we were about to discuss. Once done, we were introduced to the playdough and asked to work together in pairs to create a specific form that we independently chose without telling our partner what that choice was. Each striving to impose their form on the combined portions of playdough, conflict was created. This process was an opportunity for us to see how we deal with conflict in our lives. Some of the creations ended up being quite clever, like the elephant and ball looking like an elephant with a skirt, and an egg and nest becoming an egg in a nest.
After this exercise we were asked to place ourselves in a line across the room indicating how we feel about conflict. Those who relish it up front ,and those who try to avoid it in the back, and everyone else where they stand relative to these two attitudes. More insights were gleaned here.
And then the conversations began. Two rounds with the first question, What is conflict? And then two rounds on What can conflict create?
Cultural differences became obvious, as we described our own conflict experiences at home, work and in the world. One table determined that there are two kinds of compromise: compromising on the issues and compromising within oneself, where we compromise our own values by being quiet and going along with someone else’s way of thinking.
The second question led to discussions about how we can creatively deal with conflict, such as reflecting the other side’s position, playing with the energy, establishing a safe space, creating an agreement that conflict is OK, active listening (nonjudgmental, respect of differences, asking questions), looking for the worst possible solution, and going deep to recognize the emotion as well as the logic.
Our third question, (How do we encourage creative conflict?) brought forth ideas such as: love conflict, set clear objectives, ask provocative questions, agree to disagree, embracing our differences, clarify and agree on the vision and then encourage all ideas to come out, role playing, develop yourself, find a common goal, show the benefits and find out each other’s investment.
When we concluded the conversation we were once again asked to get quiet, go inside and ask ourselves, “How do I feel about conflict now? This was when we realized how impactful our café’s can be. In this case several of the participants who had placed themselves at the back of the line when we were asked to line up according to how we feel about conflict, discovered a totally new attitude within themselves that they will take forward into how they live their lives.
The evening ended with sharing our discoveries so we could mutually benefit from them. And the post-its they were written on helped me share them in this report.
Another successful adventure in collaborative leadership; domo arigato to all who came together to co-create this inspiring café.
Session 6 started with, as mentioned in the Day 2 Summary post, an entertaining, insightful and inspiring talk by Tony Fernandes (Group CEO, AirAsia). Mr. Fernandes is a great storyteller that kept us captivated throughout the 30 minutes or so that he was on stage.
His talk was a story about disruptive innovation. It was also a story about disruptive branding and unconventional leadership. And tying it all together was a story about AirAsia that he bought for 25 cents in 2001. The airline Tony Fernandes bought in 2001 had 2 planes, 200 employees and $10 million in debt.
It all began “with the dream of making flying possible for everyone,” and no clue about airline business.
Each of Mr. Fernandes’ slides contained one message that was followed by anecdotes from AirAsia and his own experience as examples to underscore the message.
Begin with a dream. Dream big because sometimes dreams are realised. The dream story was about the acquisition of AirAsia for 25 cents and has since then been named the World’s Best Low Cost Airline 5 consecutive years, and is now worth billions.
Break away from tradition. When SARS hit in 2002-2003 travel basically stopped. The traditional response from airlines was to cut back on everything. AirAsia saw this as an opportunity. They tripled the marketing budget and lowered the price. They were the only airline doing marketing, and if prices are low enough people will travel. Building brand and loyalty.
Shake up old hierarchies. To enable cross-functional communication required to have an efficient airline (e.g. pilots and engineers communicating) they partnered up “enemies” with each other. They had to carry a photos of each other and eat together. But the groups started to understand each other efficiency was improved significantly.
Be accessible. Referring to the clothes his wearing on stage as a “dress-up” compared to when he is working, Mr. Fernandes emphasise his belief in dressing down to encourage people at all levels to approach him. All 15,000 employees at AirAsia has Mr. Fernandes phone number and can call him at any time about issues or to share a great idea. The core idea is to have 15,000 people working for him.
Enable everyone’s potential. Introduced a pilot program that anyone can enter. Mention a success story about a boy that 7 years ago was working as a belt loader that entered the pilot program, was best in class, and is now a captain. Mr. Fernandes also tells us about a young woman that approached him to ask if she can get a flight to Thailand to compete in Miss Thailand. She can get the flight on the condition that if she wins AirAsia can use her photos as promotion for a lifetime. She did, and was number 5 in Miss Universe. And is now the only Miss Thai pilot in the world.
Do dirty work. Don’t be afraid of getting your hands dirty. It’s the best way to learn how your business work and where there are problems. Tony Fernandes explains how he refused to invest in a belt from ground to airplane. The loaders that had to do the work manually asked him to work with them for a day. This story ends with a soar back and new belts to help the loaders in their daily work.
In summary, this was one of the best and most inspiring sessions in the New Economy Summit 2014. We got insights in how AirAsia disruptive the airline business, and how Mr. Fernandes is thinking about business, branding and leadership. Maybe the best way to describe it is to end with… AirAsia is a company I could work for!
Day 1 (April 9th) of New Economy Summit 2014 (Organized by Japan Association of New Economy) started with a guest speech from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, emphasizing the importance of generating new businesses. He mentioned that venture capital investment has been increasing recently, citing its relation to 3rd arrow of Abenomics.
While Day 1 event had 4 sessions including innovations in Social Network, Connected world & Education and as well other guest speakers, the highlight of the day was the keynote speech from Larry Ellison about Data Privacy. In simple words, he spoke about how all of us are trading privacy for convenience all along with his viewpoint on Edward Snowden’s claims against Government. There was an interview afterwards where Ellison reckoned that Oracle is bridging the gap, in a way, crossing the chasm between traditional data center and cloud computing.
John Roos, Former US Ambassador to Japan, supported Prime Minister’s effective administration and encouraged businesses to develop cross-border thinking.
Session 1 – Innovations in Social Network had a panelists of CEOs from Pinterest & Yelp discussing about content business and what it takes to win in this new social economy.
Session 2 – Innovations in Connected world highlighted the evolving phenomenon of ‘Connected Commerce’. Panelists discussed about products like Fitbit, LiveScribe, etc, being designed to seamlessly connect with each other and reckoned that world will move towards connectedness.
Session 3 – Innovations in Education highlighted that Education field provides a lot of opportunity to innovate. The concept of MOOC – Massive Open Online Course has been discussed and panelists strongly advised entrepreneurs, teachers & everyone to contribute to the innovation in Education.
Session4 was a wrap-up session where Rakuten CEO Mr. Mikitani told that what’s happening now is more than innovation and it’s a disruptive revolution in the internet Business.