“Genius is a team sport.”
– Tim Sanders, Author
Developing a culture of collaborative genius using both art and science.
When an organization is young, it is understandable if it’s growth is driven by the genius of its founder. It may even be acceptable that the culture and creativity be driven by an individual person or a single perspective.
However, as the organization matures, it usually becomes decidedly clear that organizational myopia will stunt its growth. In order for it to be healthy, sustainable, and prone to growth, the organization must be driven by a host of voices, perspectives, and strategies. We like to call this a collaborative genius. At Visioneering Studios, we have identified seven key strategies for developing a culture of collaborative genius using both art and science.
- Data-Driven (information) – this is the science aspect of leadership employing Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to analyze your business and give you the metrics required to make strategic decisions. When I was an executive at Hovnanian Enterprises, I was trained to “inspect what you expect”. It does no good to expect great results if you do not inspect the metrics of the business. How will you know if you are satisfying your customers unless you carry out customer surveys? How will you know how much it takes to acquire a new customer without determining the Client Acquisition Cost (CAC)? How will you know your sales conversion rate unless you track all your leads through the entire sales funnel? Providing the data to these questions will free your team to make decisions with confidence.
- Culture-Driven (people) – the greatest strength of any company is its culture. Peter Drucker is famously credited with saying that, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” A good leader must be very intentional about his role as the Chief Cultural Architect to envision, design, and build an organization around its values. This can be crafted and implemented by its hiring and leadership development practices, the design of its workplace environment, and its priority to corporate social responsibility. It’s one thing to understand the customer journey, but it’s another thing to understand the journey of your team members.
- Story-Driven (marketing) – this would very much reflect our creativity and thinking to arrive at new ways to tell the stories of our clients and our firm. Gone are the days when a company focuses on telling stories of how it is the hero of their stories. Any good corporate storyteller understands that the customer is the true hero of this story. Telling stories where the company is cast as the guide commissioned to meet the needs and aspirations of the customer-heroes will reap dividends. Doing this well is the challenge.
- Stewardship-Driven (finances) – Dave Ramsey, a well-known finance guru, often speaks about the value of a budget, not only for our personal finances, but especially for business leaders. He defines a budget as “…telling your money where to go”. Just as my father-in-law has a very specific place for every single tool in his garage, every dollar in our budget must have a place to go. Some entrepreneurs see a budget as a financial straight-jacket, but it is a framework, or a defined sandbox, in which you can play. It is important to count and manage the costs…all costs. Time, Talent, and Treasure
- Process-Driven (Journey) – we never begin a process with preconceptions. We understand that the journey is our destination. When I was in architecture school, I was taught to avoid beginning a design project with a pre-conceived outcome. To do so would defraud the potential of the design. Each line we drew would inspire the next line. In that way, the outcome would inevitably be richer than any perception would have netted. If you establish a process as your focus, then the customer hero will enjoy the journey just as much as the destination. There is much discussion these days about the customer journey and employing strategic design to create a remarkable customer journey brand experience.
- Democracy-Driven (Evangelism) – Even at Visioneering Studios, we understand that individual Visioneers have certain specialties and strengths, but we also believe that everyone is a creative, everyone is a storyteller, and everyone is an evangelist in their own rights. This mindset is at the core of collaborative genius. It then become part of the role of the specialists to equip the greater team to become part of this collaborative genius. How can the procurement team think of creative ways to cut costs? How can the IT tell the story of the firm on their personal social media channels? How can the designer be equipped to evangelize her firm during a shared elevator trip?
- Innovation-Driven (Disruption): Even creative thought leaders run into the danger of becoming the status quo if their story doesn’t change with the times. If a company doesn’t disrupt itself, it will be disrupted. It must undergo a continuous movement of change. In their new book Illuminate, Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez of Duarte, Inc. write that every company must go through continuous cycles of Dream, Leap, Fight, Climb, Arrive, and (re)Dream. This innovation curve is more about continuous disruption that it is initial disruption. Some would argue that Apple has moved from a company of innovation to a company of iteration. This is dangerous territory.
From the science of data to the art of story, it is imperative for any organization take on the approach of a collaborative genius to build a sustainable future. By bringing in multiple perspectives, you will be equipped with the information you will need to take the make creative and scientific decisions. As Tim Sanders writes in his recent book, Dealstorming, “Genius is a team sport.”