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Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground, and Reap Big Results Hardcover – 14 Apr 2009
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About the Author
Morten T. Hansen is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and INSEAD in France. Previously, he was an associate professor at Harvard Business School, where he taught leadership and general management. In addition to his academic career, Hansen has been a management consultant for a number of years with the Boston Consulting Group. He holds a PhD from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
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The book is helpfully set up with summaries and key points.
Having thus established a frame-of-reference, Chesbrough continues: "An open business model uses this new division of innovation labor - both in the creation of value and in the capture of a portion of that value. Open models create value by leveraging many more ideas, due to their inclusion of a variety of external concepts. Open models can also enable greater value capture, by using a key asset, resource, or position not only in the company's own business model but also in other companies businesses." These comments are directly relevant to the material that Morton Hansen provides when explaining how "disciplined collaboration" can help to enable leaders to avoid or free themselves from various traps, create unity of commitment and effort, and "reap big results."
He asserts, "bad collaboration is worse than no collaboration." Why? Here are two of several reasons. First, bad collaboration never achieves the aforementioned "big results"; worse yet, bad collaboration makes good collaboration even more difficult to plan and then achieve. With regard to the "traps," Hansen identifies six in the first chapter and then suggests that there are three steps to disciplined collaboration. That is, the "the leadership practice of properly assessing when to collaborate (and when not to) and instilling in people both the willingness and the ability to collaborate when required." These are the three steps: (1) evaluate opportunities, and when making a decision, asking "Will we gain a great upside by collaborating?"; (2) identify barriers to collaboration, next asking "What are the barriers blocking people from collaborating well?"; and (3) tailor solutions to tear down the barriers, keeping in mind that different barriers require different solutions.
Throughout the book's first six chapters, Hansen explains how to formulate the underlying "management architecture" of collaboration, of disciplined collaboration, and then shifts his attention in the final chapter to explaining how his reader can "grow to be a collaborative leader" and to help others to do so also. As Chesbrough correctly suggests, it is imperative to have an "open" mindset, to make decisions that are guided and information by what Roger Martin characterizes (in The Opposable Mind) as "integrative" thinking. Those leaders who pursue disciplined collaboration "take their organizations to higher levels of performance...know where the opportunities for collaboration exist and when to say no to lesser projects...avoid the trap of overestimating benefits and overcollaborating...tear down the barriers that separate their employees...set powerful and unifying goals and forge a value of teamwork...cultivate T-shaped management...help employees build nimble, not bloated, networks...look within themselves and work to change their own leadership styles...And in cultivating collaboration in the right way, they set their people free to achieve great things not possible when they are divided."
Those who aspire to become such a leader are strongly encouraged to read this book so that Morton Hansen can collaborate with them on achieving that objective.
Hansen starts with fundamentals. Firms exist to create economic value (as well as to capture and sustain value into the future). In most business books, collaboration is unmoored from any consideration of economic value creation and treated as an inherent good. Hansen, in contrast, anchors his analysis in a hard-nosed economic analysis of when collaboration creates value, that includes not only a project's benefits, but also the costs of collaboration and the opportunity cost of foregoing alternatives. The author's analysis leads to counter-intuitive findings--not all collaboration is good and more is not better. His analysis slices through the fluff of so many books on collaboration and brings readers to the hard edges of value creation.
The book follows a clear structure. After framing collaboration in terms of its benefits, Hansen provides a systematic list of obstacles that inhibit cooperation in many firms. His list is the closest to a mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive taxonomy of barriers that I have seen. Hansen also includes a diagnostic to help managers assess the specific barriers to cooperation that they face. The book then provides extremely practical steps to enhance coordination within a firm. It closes with reflections on the leadership traits required to foster collaboration. The writing is clear, and the examples--a mix of familiar and novel--illustrate Hansen's points to a tee.
Many business books fall short in the solutionons they offer, veering at one extreme into a long laundry list of superficial or obvious actions or at the other into a "one size fits all" solution ill-suited to the complexity of real world organizations. Hansen strikes just the right balance. He introduces three actions, that are non-obvious and eminently practical. Among his many useful suggestions, I found T-shaped management and the simple rules for nimble networks to be particularly powerful. Hansen clearly spends a great deal of time with managers in the trenches, and his deep knowledge of the real world shines through in the recommendations.
This book is "academic" in the best sense of the word. Hansen does not conjure up his conclusions based on superficial observation or war stories. Rather, he draws on a rich body of scholarly research on collaboration that stretches back over decades. This firm grounding in research gives the book a solidity and credibility that many business books lack. Although the author is too humble to trumpet his own achievements, much of the best research is his own. The book achieves both academic rigor and practical relevance.