The WHY of Collaboration?

At the urging of one of my colleagues (Dave Gardner) I looked at a TEDX video where a leadership guru was talking about how (successful) leader’s behaviors were the opposite of most other companies. They looked from the inside out while there competitors look from outside in. Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” has “Why” in the middle “What” in the next ring out, and finally “How” most outside ring.

Most companies today tell customers how and what, but not why because often they don’t know the why or can’t articulate it. This is something I have thought about for a while. Why do I do this, why have I focused on collaboration for most of my career? My answer is “I believe I can make the world a better place, one collaborative interaction at a time.”

If I start from that Why, I can then figure out the ”What and How.” For example, Collaborative Strategies offers a whole set of services based on my core belief that collaboration is Holistic. That you can’t just offer technology and expect it to work; neither can you just focus on process or culture, it is working on all three at the same time that makes you successful… and that is not an easy thing to do!

But, back to the “why;” it is the Why that enables you to connect to your customers at the level of their brain that deals with behaviors and decisions (the Limbic system).  What and How are dealt with by the newest part of our brain, the neo-cortex, while why connects to the lower brain.

So for many of the 2000 collaboration vendors out there; what is your “why”? What do you believe in?  How do you get others to connect with the same beliefs? For collaboration vendors the “What” sounds like “we have these unique features that support unified massaging allow presence, and also have support for audio and data conferencing.”  The HOW for that would be something like “we enable presence through the XMPP protocol which gives us additional features such as call forwarding, a stop or pause in a web meeting, integration with Outlook, SharePoint and Google Calendars.” The Pitch for such a vendor goes something like this “see all the great features and benefits I have, don’t you want to buy my collaboration software?” It is like the old joke about how does an engineer sell sushi?  Here, buy my cold, dead fish!

As you can tell this “How-What” pitch might be good for a few techies, but it stays in the neo-cortex, where information is processed, but behaviors or decisions are not made. How successful do you think that vendor will be? Tivo was a great product, best in the market, and I think first in that market. But where are they today? Not the financial success that a company like Apple is? What did Apple do different?

My best answer to that is in an Apple commercial I saw in 1984 which quickly flashed scenes of a possible future, with armies of marching drones, and out of the commercial comes a woman, dressed very differently and with a big hammer which she tosses at the screen and it explodes! Then the Apple logo and tag line appears.  I think the tag line at that time was something like “Be different!”  Although the commercial shocked many, it was clear what Apple beliefs were; “We are different come join us, don’t be one of the PC drones, be different (and probably better).

They did not talk about the size of the hard drive, RAM, and microprocessor speed, they got you to buy into a belief, and oh by the way we sell these great computers! That is a message that spoke to my limbic brain, and yes, I did not want to be a PC drone, and I do think differently, so obviously Apple was the computer for me. Today Apple still has that same set of beliefs which has made them very successful, and enabled them to gain a 20% share in the PC market, a market that has shown slow growth and lower margins every year, yet Apple is more profitable every year (ok the iPad, iPhone, iTunes store, etc. all add to the revenue), and is the largest revenue stock on the NASDAQ).