Creative Conspiracy: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: February 10th, 2013 by bobmorris

Creative ConspiracyCreative Conspiracy: The New Rules of Breakthrough Collaboration
Leigh Thompson
Harvard Business Review Press (2013)

How and why focused, individual work can achieve innovation breakthroughs when combined with structured team interaction

However different they may be in many respects, all of the healthiest organizations (most highly admired, best to work for, most profitable, lowest attrition of valued employees, etc.) create and sustain a workplace in which communication, cooperation, and (especially) collaboration between and among stakeholders are highly developed. Please keep that statement in mind as you read this excerpt from the Introduction in which Leigh Thompson observes:

Collaboration is the art and science of combining people’s talents, skills, and knowledge to achieve a common goal [or goals]. Creative collaboration is the ability of teams and their leaders to organize, motivate, and combine talent to generate new and useful ideas. Teams that conspire to commit creative and innovative acts are engaged in a creative conspiracy.” The extent that an organization is committed to protecting, defending, and sustaining its status quo (i.e. “what got it here”) will determine the nature and extent of the need for a conspiracy.

Thompson then suggests, “When collaboration is conscious, planned, and shared with others, excitement builds and a conspiracy develops. The teams that can meet the creative challenges posed to them are the hallmark of the most successful organizations and the subject of this book, which contains state-of-the-art research on collaboration and innovation.”

And even when a creative conspiracy produces breakthrough innovation, those involved would be well-advised to keep in mind this observation by Howard Aiken: “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”

With rare exception, the best business books are research-driven and that is certainly true of this one as Thompson’s Notes (Pages 195-220) clearly indicate. The revelations of that research have convinced her that (a) insofar as innovation is concerned, teams and individuals are not mutually-exclusive; (b) it is imperative to understand (and accommodate) when and why teams and individuals work best; (c) a combination of individual work can achieve innovation breakthroughs when combined with structured team interaction; and (d) appropriate to an “open” business model, the nature an extent of collaboration should be inclusive but with clear goal setting and goal striving as well as spirited and vigorous, principled rather than self-serving debate. Finally, “Less talking and more doing, via brainwriting rather then brainstorming.”

Thompson offers in this book a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective system within which both individuals and teams can thrive. Presumably she agrees with me, however, that it would be a fool’s errand to attempt to apply everything she recommends for consideration. It remains for each reader to determine which of the abundance of material is most relevant to the needs, interests, resources, concerns, and strategic objectives of the given enterprise.

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to suggest the range of subjects covered during the course of the book’s narrative:

o Eight Myths That Have Become Pseudo-Science (Pages 13-23)
o The Creative Collaboration [Self/Team] Assessment (24-31)
o Creative Conspiracy: Key Issues and Themes (32-36)
o Four-Step Process for a Dialogue-Based Peer Review (48-49)
o Noah Had It Wrong: We Don’t Need Two of Everything! (66-70)
o The SCIENCE of Personality (71-76)
o Traps to Avoid (88-92)
o Psychological Flow, and, Nurturing the Creative Team (101-107)
o A Mind in Motion Stays in Motion (112-113)
o Neutralizing Alpha-Dominant People (127-133)
o Brain storming 1.0, and, Brainstorming 6.0 (152-156)
o Use a Hybrid Structure (160-164)
o Creating an Action Plan for Instigating a Creative Conspiracy (178-182)
o Tell Stories (189)
o Create a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, and, Making Anxiety Work for You (191-194)

I realize that no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of material that Leigh Thompson provides in this volume but I hope that I have at least suggested why I think so highly of it. Also, I hope that those who read this commentary will be better prepared to determine whether or not they wish to read the book and, in that event, will have at least some idea of how the mastery of specific skills and techniques can prepare them to achieve breakthrough collaboration, especially now when it is most needed in what has become a global marketplace.

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One Response

  1. I agree this is valuable. Research based books helps like in built to last.
    Creative new ways are essential for breakthrough. When it is team based it is more effective.

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