Deborah Kolb: Shadow Negotiation

Deborah Kolb is an academic who has chosen a precise area of study and contributed to our insights. She has examined the intersection of leadership, negotiation, and gender, to better understand how women can negotiate for the conditions that will allow them to lead successfully.

I don’t often editorialise, but at a time when a rise in women in national and global leadership roles attracts much comment, it does seem as though any work that will allow men and women  an equal footing in leadership must be a good thing. Fifty per cent of the talent pool for leadership roles is systemically under-represented. When women hold leadership roles it is still seen by many as worthy of remark. Deborah Kolb’s work may help women to compete more fairly to secure the leadership roles they deserve.

 

Deborah Kolb

Deborah Kolb

Very Short Biography

Deborah Kolb was awarded  a BA in History and Economics at Vasser College in 1965, and went on to start a PhD in Organisational Studies and Labour Relations at the MIT Sloan School of Management. While studying for her doctoral thesis (which she defended successfully in 1981) she took an academic appointment at Simmons College, becoming Deloitte Ellen Gabriel Professor for Women and Leadership in 2006. Since 2010, she has held the chair with Emerita status.

Kolb’s work on negotiation and gender came to prominence with her 2000 book ‘Shadow Negotiation: How Women Can Master the Hidden Agendas That Determine Bargaining Success‘, which she co-wrote with Judith Williams. This was widely praised and one of Harvard Business Review’s top ten business books of 2000. Her 2015 book, ‘Negotiating at Work: Turn Small Wins into Big Gains‘ was also well received and rated as one of the best books on negotiation of that year.

From 1991 to 1994, Kolb also served as Executive Director of Harvard Law School’s Project on Negotiation (Founded by William Ury and Roger Fisher), where she remains on the faculty, with Ury and Amy Cuddy.

Shadow Negotiation

When we negotiate, whether it is a formal contractual negotiation, a career stage, or just for a role in our organisation,  Kolb describes a second negotiation running in parallel: a Shadow Negotiation.

Alongside the formal discussion, each negotiator will also be trying to put their own interests and needs to the fore. They will be promoting their opinions, and trying to win the co-operation of the other person. This shadow negotiation often determines the outcome of the primary bargaining process, yet women often fare poorly here, no matter how well prepared they are for the structured negotiating process.

Kolb suggests that traditionally women have not fared well because they often miss the  moments in a negotiation, where the surface position is actually negotiable. They ‘take no for an answer’ rather than as a new bargaining position. Women’s more natural collaborative approach can also harm their shadow negotiation. In trying  to be responsive to the other side’s position, they can be interpreted as accommodating it, and making concessions, which is seen as weak.

The result is women’s outcomes from negotiations are poorer in terms of cash, perks, prestigious assignments, or roles in decision-making, than those of their male colleagues.

So Kolb would argue that women need to spot these looming acts of self-sabotaging the shadow negotiation, by being aware of how other people’s approaches can trigger them. The research that Kolb and Williams present, in their book, suggests three strategic levers to guide the shadow negotiation. These seem equally valuable to men and women.

  1. Power Moves
  2. Process Moves
  3. Appreciative Moves

If all of this sounds a little like the exercise of political acumen, read on. It is!

Power Moves

These are the strategies that get you to the formal negotiating table.  The moves are:

  • to offer incentives that show the other party the value of negotiating
  • to enlist a coalition of allies who will support you
  • create pressure by showing the risks of the status quo

Process Moves

These strategies ensure that the bargaining process works effectively for the negotiator, by setting the right ground rules. You can do this by getting your idea into the discussion early, before any conflict can cause your counter-party to be deaf to it. Ideally, anchor the negotiation around your point of view before it starts. You could also reframe the negotiation process as being about something the other person deeply values. Finally, you can use behind-the-scenes lobbying to build consensus in parallel with the formal negotiation.

Appreciative Moves

These are trust-building strategies that can unlock deadlock. They move the surface and shadow negotiations away from adversarial, by appreciating the other person’s concerns and values. The authors suggest:

  • Helping others to save face
  • Keeping the dialogue going, through deadlock. Stop trying to get agreement and focus on communicating concerns and aspirations
  • Look for the points of view that may break the deadlock, by setting a new direction for discussions

Can we become better negotiators?

Without a doubt, yes. This is the mission of the Harvard Project on Negotiation. Deborah Kolb, as a significant contributor to that, has a lot to teach us.

Recommended reading:

Geert Hofstede: Cultural Dimensions

With the advent of the internet, we may feel like we are living in some form of global village. But if we allow that to translate into a belief that we are all the same, we will find ourselves running into problems. Each culture is different and these lead to differences in value. So when we try to communicate with one another, if we misread those cultural values, we can readily end up with misunderstandings, disputes, or conflict.

Dutch engineer and social scientist, Geert Hofstede, studied the systematic differences in national cultures and identified four, then five, then six dimensions on which to describe those differences.

Geert Hofstede

Geert Hofstede

Short Biography

Hostede was born in 1928, and grew up in The Hague, in the Netherlands. Although he went to study for an MSc in Mechanical Engineering at Delft University, in 1953, he had already had early experiences travelling to England and Indonesia, after technical college, which were to put him on the track of study cultures as a social psychologist. It was in post war England that he describes experiencing culture shock – his surprise at the difference between England and Holland, despite the geographic proximity and shared historical experiences.

After University, Hofstede spent two years with the Dutch army, and then ten in three commercial organisations, learning the craft of management. The third of these was IBM, where he founded the Personnel Research Department in 1965, which he led until 1971. It was during this time that he studied part-time for his PhD in Social Psychology at Groningen University.

It was also during this time that he gathered data on values and cultural outlook from 100,000 IBM employees around the world. This was to form the basis of his research, first published in Hofstede’s 1980 book, Culture’s Consequences. This compared cultural norms, behaviours and values across different countries. He originally identified 4 dimensions, which he later increased to five.

In 1980, he co-founded the Institute for Research on Intercultural Cooperation, which is now located at Tilburg University. He was its first director, until he retired in 1993.

Just before retirement, he revisited his research and the IBM data, writing Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind with Gert Jan Hofstede and Michael Minkov. Minkov’s own work led the group to include a sixth cultural dimension.

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions

Hofstede originally described four cultural dimensions, which he expanded to six incorporating research by Michael Harris Bond into long-term orientation, and Michael Minkov into indulgence and restraint.

These six cultural dimensions are:

Individualism-Collectivism

This measures the tendency for society members to prefer being part of a strong group. Western societies such as those of Northern Europe and North America tend to be more individualistic, whilst Latin America and Asia have more collectivist cultures.

Uncertainty Avoidance

Some societies are more tolerant of ambiguity and more accepting of change. Others enforce behavioural norms and regulations strongly, to suppress change. In Europe, Southern and Eastern countries, including Germany, are more avoidant, whilst the Anglophone and Nordic countries are more accepting. Chinese cultures have low scores for uncertainty avoidance.

Power Distance

This measures inequalities of power within the society, and the level of unquestioned authoritarianism. Traditional societies and societies with strong religious adherence seem also to have high scores, such as in Asia, Latin American and Africa. Northern European countries have lower scores.

Masculinity – Femininity

This dimension measures assertiveness, desire for material gain, and tendency to honour competitive personas, against a more empathic, caring and co-operative culture. This varies widely across continents, with Scandinavian countries strongly to the Feminine end of the spectrum, and Anglophone countries strongly Masculine.

Long-term Orientation

Far Eastern countries like China are archetypes of very long range mind-sets, while Africa and the Muslim world, along with Anglophone countries are much shorter term in their outlook.

Indulgence – Self-restraint

This measures the extent to which people seek immediate gratification and pleasure, as opposed to a more disciplined, ascetic outlook, which strongly enforces social norms. Latin America and the Western countries tend to be more indulgent, whilst Asian countries and the Muslim world tend to be more restrained.

Critiques

Hofstede’s work is not without its stern critics. Whilst I am unqualified to judge it against these, one criticism seems to be self-evidently valid. Hofstede’s original work was based on his IBM survey data. Whilst this did indeed span very many national cultures, the survey set was highly dominated by white collar males – the sales and engineering  employees of IBM in the 1960s and 1970s. We have to question the representativeness of that sample.

And, whilst the cultural descriptions Hofstede’s work allocates to different nations ring true; we must also question how far this takes us from stereotyping. However, Hofstede’s work does find practical application in International commerce, particularly in the fields of marketing, communications, and negotiation.

Hofstede’s work has also been applied to organisational cultures, but this seems to be an extension beyond his original research base. For a stronger link to organisational cultures, we need to look at the work of another Dutchman, Fons Trompenaars, whose model of 14 cultural polarities is also widely used.

A Wide-ranging Interview with Geert Hofstede

You may enjoy the Cross Cultural Business Pocketbook.

Arie de Geus: Living Company

James Dean or Kirk Douglas? Jimi Hendrix or Vera Lynn? Why do some people die young and other live long and productive lives? Arie de Geus, who himself is living a long and productive life, asked the same question of companies. And the answer he got was, like the long-lived companies,  unexciting, cautious, yet robust.

Arie de Geus

Arie de Geus

Short Biography

Arie de Geus was born in 1930, in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. While studying for his doctorate in Business Administration at the Nederlandse Economische Hoogeschool (now, Erasmus University) in Rotterdam, he started working at Royal Dutch Shell to support himself through his studies.

His career at Shell was long and successful. Over 38 years he took a number of regional and corporate roles. They culminated with leadership of Shell’s Group Planning Department, famous for its innovations in Scenario Planning. There, he focused his attention on Portfolio Analysis and Organisational Decision-making. He concluded that organisational learning was a key to successful decisions and corporate longevity.

He developed this theme in a Harvard Business Review article in 1988, ‘Planning as Learning’. When de Geus retired from Shell in 1989, he rapidly got involved with the newly founded Center for Organizational Learning, at MIT, joining Chris Argyris, and Edgar Schein among its advisors, and Peter Senge, as its first Director. In 1997, he wrote the book that has brought him most prominence: ‘The Living Company’.

The Living Company

In his research, de Geus found that the average life expectancy of European and Japanese companies is 12.5 years. For large multi-nationals, it is between 40 and 50 years. Why then, are some able to last hundreds of years? De Geus argues that all have a potential life of 200 to 300 years, and he set out to learn the secrets of those who have achieved it.

His principal conclusion is simple. The problem is profits. Or, more accurately, it is a short-term focus on building profits, at the cost of a longer-term focus on all aspects of the business. Chief among the long-term aspect, de Geus highlights the need to nurture people. How a long life, a business needs to prioritise human capital over financial capital.

The title of his book arises from two hypotheses de Geus sets out:

  1. A company is (in some ways) a living being
  2. The decisions made by the company are a result of a learning process

Therefore, for the living being to thrive, it must continually learn, and build on what it has, rather than constantly seek to throw out the old, and with it, the organism’s accumulated wisdom.

Other factors he found, which characterise the long-lived companies he studied, are:

  • sensitivity to their environment
  • cohesive, with a strong sense of identity
  • tolerant of experimentation
  • frugal financing decisions

He uses these to carry forward his metaphor of companies being like living organisms, in suggesting that these characteristics also represent successful survival strategies for real living creatures.

Context

Without a doubt, de Geus sets out a corporate, rather than entrepreneurial growth agenda. And his approach to human capital aligns him with other proponents of the human side of the enterprise, starting with people like Follett, Owen, Mayo, and McGregor.

His analysis is also more nuanced and less of a ready-recipe, than the book that followed it a few years later and also looked at long-lived companies: ‘Built To Last’ by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. Perhaps the biggest difference is that, while de Geus saw average companies as lasting up to fifty years, and targeted longevity on 200-300 years. Collins was interested, in Built to Last, on those that make it past the 50 year mark. Maybe de Geus would see these as merely promising adolescents.

 

 

 

 

 

Linda Hill: Collective Genius

Linda Hill’s 2011 book, Being the Boss, was rated as one of Wall Street Journal’s 5 books to read in 2011, to build your career. But that work has since been eclipsed by the work Hill has done in collaboration with three colleagues. In this, she looks at how leaders spur innovation. The secret, she finds, is in ‘collective genius’.

Linda Hill

Linda Hill

Very Short Biography

Linda Hill was born in 1957, and attended Bryn Mawr College, where she earned a BA in Psychology. She then went to University of Chicago, to read for her MA in Educational Psychology, which she followed with a PhD in Behavioural Science.

In 1984, Hill joined the staff of the Harvard Business School, as an assistant professor. She became an associate professor in 1991, and full professor in 1995. Since 1997, she has been Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, where she has studied a broad spectrum of management and leadership topics. Her current interests remain centred on leadership, with particular focus on innovation, leading in the 21st century, and the new black business elite of South Africa.

Linda Hill’s Ideas

Becoming a Manager

Hill’s first book was Becoming a Manager (2003). This is a robust guide to taking on a management role, with a strong focus on its challenges within a career context. There is little innovative in it, but it does form a good guide to an important (and under-studied) career point. Hill concludes that a new manager must learn to:

  • Set the strategy and direction for their team
  • Align their people around that direction
  • Motivate and inspire them to achieve their goals

Being the Boss

Being the Boss (2011) is an altogether more substantial contribution, co-written with Kent Lineback. In this, Hill suggest three priorities for leaders:

  1. Managing yourself
  2. Managing your network
  3. Managing your team

So far, so standard. What makes this book stand out is its depth,and the way it gives genuinely valuable pointers to help managers and leaders progress on their journey. It is both thoughtful and practical. This is a book that is filled with pragmatic advice, and has inspired a mandatory module in Harvard’s MBA programme.

Collective Genius

It is Hill’s 2014 book, co-written with three other researchers, that has brought her to prominence as one of the foremost contemporary management thinkers. Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation sets out to explore how leaders can create an innovative culture.

The research, conducted through a series of interviewers with leaders at highly creative organisations, concludes that the traditional image of a visionary leader driving creativity is a false one. Visionaries rarely lead great innovation. Instead, they tend to be the ones who get in its way.

A constant stream of good innovation needs leaders who are ‘social architects’ that can create a culture of collaboration. This means creating a sense of community, that rests on shared values, a clear purpose, and mutually agreed ways of working together. The diagram below illustrates this and is adapted from the book.

Collective Genius - Sense of Community

Collective Genius – Sense of Community

Once the leader has created this shared culture of collaboration, they need to give the groups a chance to discuss, argue, test, experiment and learn from their successes and failures. Crucially, the leader also needs to give ideas long enough to develop, so that evaluation is based on real results, rather than anticipation. In low creativity cultures, leaders select from competing ideas too soon. They reject and lose good ideas that do not seem as likely to thrive, while in their early stages.

Where different ideas are allowed to develop and be tested fully in parallel, decision-making is more robust. The authors identify three leadership abilities, which the leader must also develop within the group:

1. Creative Abrasion

Creating a culture of robust debate and challenge, that will generate the new ideas.

2. Creative Agility

A rapid cycle of test, learn, adjust that values experimentation as the way to optimise.

3. Creative Resolution

A decision-making approach that shuns ‘either-or’ thinking in favour of integrating different and sometimes opposing ideas.

In a fast-moving and complex world, easy solutions will be few and far between. We need a constant supply of new insights into how we can better synthesise subtle and complex solutions, and make wise choices about which to invest in. Many reviewers suggest that every CEO should be reading this book. I just wish it could find its way onto the reading pile of some more senior politicians.

Management Pocketbooks on related topics:

How to Manage for Collective Creativity

Linda Hill speaking at TEDx in 2014.

Philip Tetlock: Expert Judgment

Philip Tetlock has done more than any other academic to help us understand the process of forecasting and making predictions. He has shown us why experts don’t do well, and, with his latest work, has found the secret sauce of ‘Superforecasting‘.

Philip Tetlock

Philip Tetlock

Short Biography

Philip Tetlock was born in 1954 and grew up in Toronto. He studied psychology, gaining his BA and MA at University of British Columbia, before moving to the US, to research decision-making for his PhD at Yale.

His career has been entirely academic, with posts at University of California, Berkley (Assistant Professor, 1979-1995), Ohio State University (Chair of Psychology and Political Science, 1996-2001), a return to UC Berkley (Chair at the Haas Business School, 2002-2011), and currently, he is Annenberg University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is jointly appointed between the School of Psychology, Political Science, and the Wharton Business School.

Tetlock’s early books are highly academic, but he started to come to prominence with the publication, in 2005, of ‘Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?‘ This book has become highly influential, by documenting the results of Tetlock’s research into the forecasting and decision making of experts. The bottom line is that the more prominent the expert: the poorer their ability to forecast accurately.

Tetlock’s most recent book, 2015’s ‘Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction‘ is one of those few magic books that can change your view of the world, make you smarter, make you feel wiser, and inspire you at the same time. It is co-written with journalist Dan Gardner (whose earlier books cover Tetlock’s work [Future Babble], and that of Daniel Kahneman [Risk]) and so is also highly readable.

The Tetlock Two-step

In ‘Expert Political Judgment‘, Tetlock is a pessimist. He finds substantial evidence to warn us not to accept the predictions of pundits and experts. They are rarely more accurate than a chimp with a dartboard (okay, he actually compares them to random guessing).

Ten years later, in ‘Superforecasting’, Tetlock is an optimist. He still rejects the predictions of experts, but he has found light at the end of the predictions tunnel. The people he calls ‘Superforecasters’ are good at prediction; far better than experts, far better than chance, and highly consistent too.

If you want to understand how to make accurate predictions and reliable decisions; you need to understand Tetlock’s work.

Hedgehogs and Foxes: The Failure of Experts

In a long series of thorough tests of forecasting ability, Tetlock discovered a startling truth. Experts rarely perform better than chance. Simple computer algorithms that extrapolate the status quo often outperformed them. The best human predictors were those with lesser narrow expertise and a broader base of knowledge. In particular, the higher the public profile of the expert, the poorer their performance as a forecaster.

This led Tetlock to borrow a metaphor from philosopher Isiah Berlin: The fox knows many things but the hedgehog knows one big thing. The experts are hedgehogs: they know one thing very well, but are often outsmarted by the generalists who recognise the limitations of their knowledge and therefore take a more nuanced view. This is often because experts create for themselves a big theory that they are then seduced into thinking will explain everything. Foxes don’t have a grand theory. So they synthesise many different points of view, and therefore see the strengths and weaknesses of each one, better than the hedgehogs.

One result of Tetlock’s work was that the US Government’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) set up a forecasting tournament. This is an ‘Intelligence Community’ think tank. Eventually, Tetlock moved from helping design and manage the tournament, to participating.

Superforecasting: The Triumph of Collective Reflection

Tetlock, along with his wife (University of Pennsylvania Psychology and Marketing Professor, Barbara Mellers) created and co-led the Good Judgment Project. This was a collaborative team that was able to win the IARPA tournament consistently.

The book, Superforecasting, documents what Tetlock learned about how to forecast well. He identified ‘Superforecasters’ as people who can consistently make better predictions than other pundits. Superforecasters think in a different way. They are more thoughtful, reflective, open-minded and intellectually humble. But despite their humility, they tend to be widely read, hard-working, and highly numerate.

In a recent (at time of writing – https://twitter.com/PTetlock/status/738667852568350720 – 3 jJune 2016) Tweet, Tetlock said of  Trump University’s ‘Talk Like a winner’ guidelines :

Guidelines for “talking like a winner” are roughly the direct opposite of those for thinking like a superforecaster

The other characteristics that enable superforecasting, which you can implement in your own organisation’s decision-making, are:

  1. Screen forecasters for high levels of open-mindedness, rationality and fluid intelligence (reasoning skills), and low levels of superstitious thinking (Tetlock has developed a ‘Rationality Quotient’ or RQ). Also choose people with a ‘Growth Mindset’ andGrit.
  2. Collect forecasters together to work as a team
  3. Aim to maximise diversity of experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives
  4. Train them in how to work as a team effectively
  5. Good questions get good answers, so focus early effort on framing the question well to reduce bias and increase precision
  6. Understand biases and how to counter them
  7. Embrace and acknowledge uncertainty
  8. Take a subtle approach and use high levels of precision in estimating probabilities of events
  9. Adopt multiple models, and compare the predictions each one offers to gain deeper insights
  10. Start to identify the best performers, and allocate higher weight to their estimates
  11. Reflect on outcomes and draw lessons to help revise your processes and update your forecasts

 

Tetlock Explaining Fox and Hedgehog Theory

Eliyahu Goldratt: Theory of Constraints

Eliyahu Goldratt was an Israeli business thinker, who popularised his approach to transforming the performance of business processes with a novel. Co-written with Jeff Cox, The Goal has been one of the most influential business books of the late Twentieth Century.

Eliyahu Goldratt

Eliyahu Goldratt

Short Biography

Eliyahu Goldratt was born in 1947 and lived his life in Israel. He studies Physics at university, gaining his BSc at Tel Aviv University, and his Masters of Science and Doctorate of Philosophy degrees from Bar-Ilan University. His PhD research was into the physics of fluid flow, and afterwards, he applied this thinking to systems within organisations.

He used an algorithm that he had developed during his doctoral studies as the basis for creating production scheduling software, which he called Optimized Production Technology. In 1975, he founded a company with the same name, to implement the software within Israeli companies.

The company grew, opening subsidiaries in the US (1979) and the UK (1982), changing the business name to Creative Output. It started to provide training alongside software implementation. In 1984, Goldratt published ‘The Goal‘. This was a business book, about process optimizaton, in the form of a novel. Jeff Coz provided the creative writing, while Goldratt set out the principles. The Goal became an international best seller.

The book’ success, and Goldratt’s response, created tensions with the company’s shareholders, and in 1986, he left Creative Output and founded AGI, The Avraham Y Goldratt Institute (named after his father). Through the late 1980s and the 1990s, Goldratt continued to develop his ideas, which became known as The Theory of Constraints (or sometimes just as TOC).

In 1997, Goldratt retired from AGI, but continued to found consulting businesses and write books, applying his Theory of Constraints to arenas like marketing and project management. He died at a relatively young age, in 2011.

The Theory of Constraints

The Theory of Constraints was not new when Goldratt conceived it. There are many antecedents both for its primary application in process engineering and for other applications like the Critical Chain approach to project management, set out in his 1997 book, ‘Critical Chain‘.

Indeed, many of Goldratt’s ideas are applied in Lean Manufacturing, and overlap substantially with those of Taiichi Ohno. The essence of Goldratt’s approach is three questions and a five step process.

The questions are intended to direct changes that will optimise a system. They  are deceptively simple:

  1. What to change?
  2. What to change to?
  3. How to make the change?

The principle that Goldratt based his theory on is also very simple. If there nothing is preventing a system from achieving higher throughput, then its throughput would be unlimited. This is obviously absurd, so there must be constraints. When you find the constraints and lift their capacity, the system’s capacity and productivity (to achieve its goal) will increase. So the steps for doing this are:

  1. Identify the system’s greatest constraint.
  2. Decide how to exploit the system’s constraints.
  3. Subordinate everything else to the above decisions.
  4. Elevate the system’s constraints.
  5. When you have lifted the system’s constraint, go back to step 1.

Goldratt likened the limiting resource or asset, which constrains the rest of the system, to a drum. Its beat determines the rhythm of the system. If you cannot raise its tempo, you must do everything you can to avoid wasting its capacity. To maximise throughput at this constraint, other elements of the process, that feed it, need to have surplus capacity, to create a buffer  and reduce risk that, if they fail, the constraint will kick in.

This is a principle Goldratt applied in a variety of contexts, and there are now a great many of businesses that consult on these applications.

Goldratt’s legacy has been a highly analytical approach to finding cause and effect. Some criticise it for its simplicity and others because it may not produce the most optimal solutions. And of course, others are concerned about the extent to which he did or did not acknowledge his debt to earlier thinkers. His 2006 article, ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants‘ does explicitly reference the Toyota Production System very clearly.

For us, however, the message is clear. The Theory of Constraints is widely used and has made a large contribution to the productivity of many businesses. So for that reason, any manager should have at least a passing understanding of its principles.

Amy Edmondson: Teaming

Amy Edmondson is an Engineer turned Management and Leadership Professor, who has made a special study of how to create effective collaboration among small, disparate groups in informal circumstances. This, she believes, is the key to organisational success in a world where innovation is critical.

Amy Edmondson

Amy Edmondson

Very Short Biography

Amy Edmondson grew up in New York, and studied Visual and Environmental Studies and Engineering at Harvard University, graduating in 1981. For a short while, she was Chief Engineer at the Buckminster Fuller Institute. After she left, she published a book, ‘A Fuller Explanation: The Synergetic Geometry of R. Buckminster Fuller’ about Fuller’s ideas.

She then moved to the Pecos River Learning Centers, where she became Director of Research, until starting a PhD in Organisational Behaviour at Harvard in 1991. When she completed it, she joined the staff of Harvard Business School, where she is currently the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management.

Failure

For many people, Amy Edmondson came to notice with her 2011 Harvard Business Review article ‘Strategies for Learning from Failure‘. In this, she argues the case for ‘intelligent failures’ setting out a neat model of how failure spans a spectrum from blameworthy to praiseworthy.

Reasons for Failure - Amy Edmondson

Reasons for Failure – Amy Edmondson

The abilities to face up to failure, discuss it candidly, and be curious about it lead nicely into the work for which Edmondson is best known…

Teaming

Edmondson distinguishes the concept of ‘Teaming’ from the more familiar idea of teamwork. Teaming is about bringing together a diverse group and rapidly creating the conditions for close collaboration. It bears a close relationship with the idea of Swift Trust, which we discussed in an earlier Pocketblog.

However, whilst swift trust focuses on creating a solid basis for long-term collaboration quickly, Edmondson is more interested in short-term, informal collaboration. For this to happen, she identifies ‘three pillars’.

  1. Curiosity – to learn from the people around you
  2. Passion – so that you care enough to work your hardest
  3. Empathy – so you can see things from other people’s points of view

The role of leadership becomes one of role modelling these three behaviours. You must be driven to achieve the goal, enquire deeply into the situation, and tune into the needs and emotions of the people around you.

Edmondson’s book, Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy is very highly regarded and features a foreword by Edgar Schein.

An important concept that Edmondson introduces in her work on teaming is…

Psychological Safety

Teaming works – and teams work – when participants collectively feel that members can take risks together safely. They can share feelings and disclose actions without fear of recrimination. This creates a climate of openness, which Edmondson calls ‘Psychological Safety’. Again, the leader needs to model appropriate behaviours, acknowledging your own fallibility, and being curious and empathic.

Crucially, when you achieve psychological safety for your team, work becomes a problem of learning, rather than of executing actions. In this, Edmondson’s work complements Schein’s exceptionally well.

Edmondson in her own Words

There are a number of excellent videos available. In this 12 minute TEDx video, Edmondson is talking about Psychological Safety.