No organization is immune to the shifts set in motion by current global tides. Its ripple effects have shaken the very foundations of how business is being conducted today, continually reshaping our view of how leaders, teams, and customers react. Our core challenge is to acknowledge where and how to embrace true collaboration as the centerpiece of this new ecosystem.
Thomas Edison knew this in the late 1800’s.
Sarah Miller Caldicott, great grandniece of Thomas Edison and author of the book Midnight Lunch, believes that the notion of a collaboration ecosystem linking innovation, strategy, and value creation stood at the heart of Edison’s laboratories as well as his manufacturing empire.
Caldicott believes that there are three major forces to be aware of in designing an effective approach to collaboration today: complexity, metalogue, and reskilling.
The Rise in Complexity Due to Massive Generation of Data and Real-Time Synthesis: The accelerated pace of technological change has erased familiar industry boundaries, opening the way for rapid formation of new markets. A tsunami of data can now be consumed – and generated –by individuals armed with mobile phones and other smart devices.
Although operating in a different technological era, Edison embraced complexity as a fundamental component of collaboration itself. Embracing complexity rather than sidestepping it represent a hallmark of Edison’s true collaboration process.
The Rise of Metalogue as a Tool for Creating Purpose and Connection: Feelings of fragmentation yielded by economic and technological shifts have depended the need for connection and common purpose across large groups of people. Communities, organizations, and governments face an imperative to hear the opinions of diverse constituencies that now can generate influence outside of traditionally recognized channels of decision-making or authority.
Edison’s true collaboration process recognizes the central role of collegiality and team discipline as crucial components that lay the groundwork for dialogue – and ultimately, metalogue. He maintained a high level of team coherence even when pressures mounted by grounding his teams with an understanding of how debate and conflict could be constructively harnessed.
The Need for Reskilling Workers in the Innovation Age: The broad availability of smart devices paces new emphasis on what people can potentially create rather than what they already know. Skills linked to knowledge sharing, such as effective communication, adaptive thinking, and cross-generational leadership, are gaining new prominence in realms where functional expertise formerly dominated.
Edison’s four phases of collaboration offer a unique platform for embedding collaboration as a superskill in your organization using discovery learning and hands-on engagement rather than tired classroom-style approaches. Instead of pushing lectures to teach creativity and problem solving, Edison’s experiential approach engages the reskilling process by activating creative centers of the brain and thereby developing large neural networks that drive learning more deeply than task-based or fact-based approaches.
The underlying mechanisms of Edison’s true collaboration process are a crucial priority for every organization. Organizations that engage true collaboration as a backbone for their innovation, value creation, and team development will remain thriving and nimble in the face of constantly shifting economic and cultural forces.
Collaboration is not just a nostalgic look into the past or a hoped-for future aspiration – it is a necessary organizational survival skill needed now.