Haque and Caffeine-fueled Collaboration

Umair Haque, the always engaging and thought-provoking economist, hit the nail squarely this week in his HBR blog on the importance of teamwork, collaboration and achieving synchronicity for business success.

He poses this question: “If you were the next Steve Jobs, what problems would you try to solve?”

He relates a personal story about his experience at the Kaffiene coffee shop in New York that got him to thinking about entrepreneurs, collaboration and how they operate: “James, the barista, noticed that I’d come in, order a flat white, write like a man possessed for an hour or so — but never finish my coffee. He asked me why, and I replied that espresso leaves me too wired to write, but paradoxically, I always need a little. Without missing a beat, James simply proceeded to create an entirely new drink for me, on the spot: a “mini flat-white”, which he half-jokingly named after me.

“Now, this might sound entirely trivial. Until you ask yourself: how often, despite billions spent on “service,” “creativity,” “innovation,” “changing the game,” “motivation,” “leadership,” and assorted other magical buzzword-incantations, has something like the preceding happened to you, anywhere — ever? My bet is: outside of a truly excellent bar, almost nowhere, probably never.”

Haque’s conclusion and the lesson he derived? “You don’t get to tomorrow by solving yesterday’s problems. To solve today’s set of burning problems, you just might have to build new institutions.”

New institutions?  But what would these look like? Hague suggests that businesses should not concentrate on continuously solving the problems of the past, but rather should create institutions with more spontaneity, sociality and synchronicity in a way that allows employees – like James the barista – to solve today’s problems.

Imagine that. A proactive employee solving MY problem.

So enough about a custom cup of coffee for Mr. Haque. How does this relate to Vested and why do I care enough to write a blog about it?

For starters let’s put yourself in the service provider’s shoes; talk about a radical shift in service providers approach to business and serving their customers. In our new book, Vested: How P&G, McDonald’s and Microsoft are Redefining Winning in Business Relationships, we explore how some of the world’s best companies are working with their business partners to bring this level of proactivity—and innovation!—to solving today’s problems.

In the book we profile P&G’s wildly successful relationship with Jones Lang LaSalle, the manager of P&G’s global real estate and facilities management operations. I love the story one P&G’er used to describe their Vested relationship, using a great analogy of a tug of war game. In the P&G and JLL relationship, both parties are tugging on the rope – but they are tugging together in the same direction – putting today’s business problems on the other side of the rope. Think of the sheer power of taking the same energy – but focusing it in a positive direction.

Hague points out what distinguishes organizations that achieve enduring greatness is teamwork and collaboration. I agree: that’s tugging on the rope in the same direction. Hague describes the “new institution” as going well beyond collaboration, “to something like what Jung called synchronicity: a kind of uncanny intersection of seemingly unrelated lives.” While many criticized Jung for being too far out with his synchronicity concept, I see “uncanny intersections” created by the Vested system all the time because the tight bonds between the Vested parties create a virtual “system” that is in harmony. In many cases, suppliers are so in tune with their customers they “invent” solutions to problems their customer did not know they had – like James the barista inventing the “mini flat white” for Hague when he didn’t even know he had a problem.

I definitely get what Haque is reaching for in his blog. The Vested framework helps companies achieve these hyper-collaborative relationships that go well beyond making collaboration a corporate buzzword. There’s no lip service in the Vested model. Vested enables service providers to create real-world synchronicity with their customers to solve today’s problems.

Image: Coffee Shop (II) by roeyahram via Flickr

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