Improving Innovation Collaboration

by Braden Kelley

I first met Keith Ferrazzi at the incentive2innovate Conference at the United Nations. Keith is the author of the best-selling “Never Eat Alone” and the new bestseller “Who’s Got Your Back.” When his book tour stopped in Seattle the very next week, I had the opportunity to ask Keith on camera about the impact of relationships on innovation and collaboration. Here is what he had to say:

As many of you know, innovation often comes as a result of triumphing over fear – fear of failure, fear of rejection, etc. By creating effective peer support groups in your organization (especially amongst innovation teams), much of this fear can be replaced with trust. As you can imagine, immense power comes from making this substitution.

“Who’s Got Your Back” is a book all about the importance of building an inner circle of deep, trusting relationships that create success and won’t let you fail. These kind of peer groups can be built both by individuals for personal and professional development, but can also be consciously built within organizations to increase collaboration and team success.

To improve innovation and collaboration it is important to build peer support teams that can reach out to each other for candid feedback – teams who aren’t afraid to challenge each other, in order to help the team succeed. Of course people have to feel that it is safe to challenge each other and learn that challenges come not from an intention to criticize, but from having each others back.

Keith Ferrazzi claims that in order to create effective peer support teams, you need to assemble and teach teams of 3-4 people the four core mind-sets, outlined in the book:

  1. Generosity
    • “This is the base from which all the other behaviors arise. This is the commitment to mutual support that begins with the willingness to show up and creatively share our deepest insights and ideas with the world. It’s the promise to help others succeed by whatever means you can muster. Generosity signals the end of isolation by cracking open a door to a trusting emotional environment, what I call a ‘safe space’ – the kind of environment that’s necessary for creating relationships in which the other mind-sets can flourish.”

  2. Vulnerability
    • “This means letting your guard down so mutual understanding can occur. Here you cross the threshold into a safe space after intimacy and trust have pushed the door wide open. The relationship engendered by generosity then moves toward a place of fearless friendship where risks are taken and invitations are offered to others.”

  3. Candor
    • “This is the freedom to be totally honest with those you confide in. Vulnerability clears the pathways of feedback so that you are able to share your hopes and fears. Candor allows us to begin to constructively interpret, respond to, and grapple with that information.”

  4. Accountability
    • “Accountability refers to the action of following through on the promises you make to others. It’s about giving and receiving the feet-to-the-fire tough love through which real change is sustained.”

Allowing oneself to be vulnerable is incredibly difficult. One of the tools presented to help people achieve vulnerability was ‘The Eight Steps to Instant Intimacy’:

  1. Create an Authentic Environment Around You
  2. Suspend Your Predjudices
  3. Project the Positive
  4. Share Your Passions
  5. Talk About Your Goals and Dreams
  6. Revisit Your Past
  7. What’s Keeping Your Up at Night?
  8. Future Fears

Being successful at candor is also very difficult. Here is a list of things from the book to keep in mind when you’re trying to elicit candor:

  1. Find People You Respect
  2. Create the Opportunity
  3. Make It Clear Any Feedback You Get Is a Gift
  4. Acknowledge Your Faults
  5. Tell the Other Person What You Plan to Do with the Advice
  6. Don’t Tell Them What You Want to Hear
  7. Ask Specific Questions
  8. Take It or Leave It – but Deliver on Safety
  9. Paying Them Back

There are a lot of good examples in the book and a lot of good information that brings all of these points together. Managers will definitely create increased innovation and collaboration if they can do a good job of engaging and recognizing employees, while also creating innovation teams that collaborate with vulnerability, generosity, candor, and accountability.

Will your innovation teams be able to find their safe place and have each others’ back?

What do you think?


Braden Kelley is the founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

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