If you are like me, you are in the process of selecting the books you want to read over the summer. The good news is that with e-books it’s a lot easier to “pack” a number of books as you head off for vacation or just try to squeeze in some beach time on the weekends. In case you’re still looking for some good business books to consider, let me share some of what I’ve read over the past few months.
Tackling Wicked Government Problems: A Practical Guide for Developing Enterprise Leaders, by Jackson Nickerson and Ronald Sanders, editors, Brookings Institution Press, is a must read for anyone interested in how to address multi-party collaborations. Don’t let the focus on government issues keep you from reading the book. It is packed full of practical, real-world examples and proven strategies for successfully tackling the societal challenges that require innovative solutions. They describe pragmatic approaches for building and using collaborative networks to respond to and solve thorny problems that span multiple entities, disciplines and sectors. Any organization looking to rethink its business or participate in solving a major customer need – smarter cities, rethinking American healthcare, transitioning to sustainable energy are a few coming to mind – would be well advised to embrace their advice.
To be honest what I love best about the book is the case they make that executives equipped with the mindset, skillset and toolset of collaboration are best prepared to lead 21st Century organizations. That’s the message I give my MBA students in my Managing Collaborative Relationships course at Bentley University.
Another book that builds on the idea of collaborative skills as the essence of executive leadership, is Collaborate! The Art of We: Combining Capabilities to Create New Opportunities for Success, by Dan Sanker, Jossey-Bass publisher. Sanker’s thesis is that survival of the fittest will be determined by those who know how to collaborate. He goes on the make the point that “great collaborators will, ironically, be the best competitors.” We couldn’t agree more. We found this same phenomenon in our research between 2006 and 2009 on over 8,000 pharmaceutical sales reps – the better salespeople are in fact the better collaborators. Research by IBM at the same time among some of their top sales teams reached the same conclusion.
Collaboration and competition are not opposing forces. As coopetition becomes the norm in every industry – especially given the changing definitions of industries and the business models companies are pursuing – we have to learn how to collaborate and compete. It is also true that competition is no longer company against company but rather collaborative network against collaborative network, of which companies are either the leader (network organizer, choreographer or orchestrator – chose your term of art). In this world, the companies best able to collaborate are also the ones best able to compete.
An interesting element of the book is that the Foreword is a collaborative effort of 35 people. It drives home the point that collaboration has moved from being a good idea and an amorphous concert to being absolutely essential for businesses to thrive and grow in this time of economic transformation. To help make it all real, Sanker provides a practical toolset for capturing 21st-Century opportunities using breakthrough collaborative ability.