HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Collaboration

Posted on: June 5th, 2016 by bobmorris

HBR 10 CollaborationHBR’s 10 Must Reads on Collaboration
Harvard Business Review Editors and various contributors
Harvard Business Review Press (2013)

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Ancient African proverb

This is one in a series of volumes that anthologizes what the editors of the Harvard Business Review consider to be “must reads” in a given business subject area, in this instance collaboration. I have no quarrel with any of their selections, each of which is eminently deserving of inclusion. Were all of these ten articles purchased separately as reprints, the total cost would be at least $60 and the practical value of any one of them exceeds that.

Given the fact that Amazon US now sells this one for only 119.52, that’s quite a bargain. The same is true of volumes in other series such as “HBR Guide to…,” “Harvard Business Review on…,” and “Harvard Business Essentials.” I also think there is great benefit derived from the convenience of having a variety of perspectives and insights gathered in a single volume.

In all of the volumes in the “HBR 10 Must Reads” series that I have read thus far, the authors and their HBR editors make skillful use of several reader-friendly devices that include “Idea in Brief” and “Idea in Action” sections, checklists with or without bullet points, boxed mini-commentaries (some of which are “guest” contributions from other sources), and graphic charts and diagrams that consolidate especially valuable information. These and other devices facilitate, indeed accelerate frequent review later of key points later.

Those who read this volume will gain valuable information, insights, and counsel that will help them to forge strong relationships up, down, and across their organization, build a collaborative culture, bust silos (often disguised as human beings, “the living dead”), harness informal knowledge sharing, select the right collaboration(s) outside their business, manage conflict wisely, and know when [begin italics] not [end italics] collaborate.

The healthiest organizations are those with a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. With rare exception, the improvement and development are driven by collaboration at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. Both are a never-ending process, a journey, not an ultimate destination. Hence the wisdom of the ancient African proverb.

In the first article, Herminia Ibarra and Morten T. Hansen pose this question: “Are You a Collaborative Leader?” According to the HBR editors of this volume, “In their research on top-performing CEOs, Insead professors Ibarra and Hansen have examined what it takes to be a collaborative leader. They’ve found that it requires connecting people and ideas outside an organization to those inside it, leveraging diverse talent, modeling collaborative behavior at the top, and showing a strong hand to keep teams from getting mired in debate.”

Consider this passage from Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

”Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

Not everyone has the temperament or inclination to be a collaborative leader but the most effective C-level executives do. The other nine articles cover separate but related subjects:

o “Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership” (Goleman and Boyatzis)
o ”Stringing Minds Together” (Abele)
o “Building a Collaborate enterprise” (Adler, Heckscher, and Prusak)
o “Silo Busting: How to Deliver on the Promise of Customer Focus” (Gulati)
o “Harnessing Your Staff’s Internal Networks” (McDermott and Archibald)
o “Want Collaboration? Accept — and Actively Manage — Conflict” (Weiss and Hughes)
o “Shattering the Myths About Enterprise 2.0” (McAfee)
o “When Internal Collaboration Is Bad for Your Company” (Hansen)
o “Which Kind of Collaboration Is Best for You?” (Pisano and Verganti)

Although the term “emotional intelligence” first appeared in a 1964 paper by Michael Beldoch, Daniel Goleman is generally given credit for popularizing the concept with his eponymous book published in 1995. He and Richard Boyatzis are the co-authors of one of the ten articles, “Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership,” published in HBR in 2008. Emotional intelligence and social intelligence share many of the same values (notably empathy and attunement) that are evident in relationships with others. Almost twenty years ago, Goleman and Boyatwzis came across as pioneers in a relatively new field that most business leaders preferred to avoid. What seems obvious today was hardly credible then. Consider their concluding remarks:

“As we explore the discoveries of neuroscience, we are struck by how closely the best psychological theories of human development map to the newly charted hardwiring the brain…Hard-bitten executives may consider it absurdly indulgent and financially untenable to concern themselves with such theories [importance of play to accelerated learning and the importance of a solid base to innovative thinking] in a world where bottom-line performance is the yardstick of success. But as new ways of scientifically measuring human development start to bear out these theories and link them directly with performance, the so-called soft side of business begins to look not so soft after all.”

Those who think the material in the ten HBR articles is “dated” because it was published years ago obviously haven’t read even one of them, much less all ten. That is especially true of “Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership.”

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