During this year’s winter Olympics, the highlight for me was watching the figure skater, Kim Yu-Na of South Korea. The agility she displayed as she skated to win a gold medal was both breathtaking and awe-inspiring. Not only did she show her well-trained body’s flexibility but her life story demonstrates how adaptable her spirit is as well. Click below to see her in action.
Video Library Player: A Nation Awaits Gold in Figure Skating
Like Kim Yu-Na, collaborators need to be agile. Websters defines agile as 1) marked by ready ability to move with quick easy grace and 2) having a quick resourceful and adaptable character. In business, one doesn’t need to learn how to do a triple lutz jump but it is vital to know how to quickly adjust to and build on the numerous points of view on any project or team. If you are able to influence and be influenced, you avoid the ineffective spinning that comes from people talking at one another.
Collaborative Agility is demonstrated when we change how we relate to someone in order to better communicate. It occurs when we can reframe a problem into an opportunity. We are agile when we don’t have an answer but improvise with others until a path becomes clear.
In the next few blog entries, we are going to look in more depth about the value of agility in collaboration. You can begin thinking about the value of agility in your collaborations. We’d love to know some of your stories.
Posted in agile, collaboration
Tagged adaptability, adaptation, agility, collaboration, collaborative agility, Debbie Exner, flexibility, improvise, influence, Maddie Hunter
Yesterday I wrote about the Netflix prize — $1,000,000 awarded to the team BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos for creating an algorithm that was 10.06% better at recommending movies that customers would like.
Improvements came quickly and then bogged down. Here are the highlights:
- 2007 $50,000 progress prize — BellKor with an 8.43% improvement
- 2008 $50,000 progress prize — BellKor in BigChaos with a 9.44% improvement. This team was a combination of the two front runners BellKor and Big Chaos
- 2009 $1,000,000 grand prize — BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos at 10.06%. This team was a combination of BelKor in Big Chaos and Pragmatic Theory. Another collaborative team, the Ensemble (a merger of the Grand Prize Team and Opera Solutions and Valdelay United), tied but their final submission was submitted 20 minutes later.
“This has been one of the wonderful discoveries in the competition, that blending teams can lead to substantial gains…” said Chris Volinsky, a scientist at AT&T Research and a member of BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos Team. Blending different technical skills (statistical and machine-learning techniques) “only works well if you combine models that approach the problem differently. That’s why collaboration has been so effective, because different people approach problems differently.”
Some of the factors that affected predictions were:
- people rate movies they saw a long time ago differently than the ones they saw recently
- movie watchers tend to rate movies differently on Fridays versus Mondays
- a rating given on a Monday is a poor indicator of other movies the viewer will like
Other companies are also using crowdsourcing to solve real problems. Check out these websites to see some of the opportunities offered through these clearinghouse sites:
What problem would you like to solve by offering a prize?
Posted in business, collaboration, porous
Tagged $1 million, AT&T Research, BellKor, BellKor's Pragmatic Chaos, Big Chaos, brainstorming, collaboration, crowdsourcing, different perspectives, innovation, Netflix, porous, Pragmatic Theory, prize, The Ensemble
The challenge: Create an algorithm that was 10% better than the one Netflix was currently using to recommend movies to subscribers and win $1,000,000!
The contest began on October 2, 2006 and was expected to take some time. It is a great example of crowdsourcing, or community-based design, which allows organizations to become more porous and tap talent outside of their organization.
“It’s been quite a drama,” said Neil Hunt, Netflix chief product officer. “At first, a whole lot of teams got in — and they got 6-percent improvement, 7-percent improvement, 8-percent improvement, and then it started slowing down, and we got into year two. There was this long period where they were barely making progress, and we were thinking, ‘maybe this will never be won.’
On September 21, 2009 Netflix awarded the $1M Grand Prize to the collaborative team “BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos.” Tune in tomorrow to find out about the role of collaboration in this contest!
Posted in business, collaboration, porous
Tagged Belkor's Pragmatic Chaos, collaboration, collaborative techniques, contest, crowdsourcing, deadoll, Debra Exner, innovation, Maddie Hunter, Neil Hunt, Netflix, networking, porous, synergy
“Winning companies today have open and porous boundaries and compete by reaching outside their walls to harness external knowledge, resources and capabilities.”
–Wikinomics, by Don Tapscott & Anthony D. Williams
What does it mean to be porous? According to Websters, Porous is an adjective meaning 1. possessing or full of pores; 2a. permeable to fluids, 2b. permeable to outside influences; 3. capable of being penetrated, as in porous national boundaries
Porosity is actually the measure of the void spaces in a material. Examples of porous materials are sponges, cork and sandstone.
When we’re thinking about collaboration, porous might mean:
- To allow new/different ideas to seep in
- To be willing to offer your ideas to others
- To be willing to change your mind
- To have room for new/different points of view – to not be closed off
In the next few blog posts, we’ll explore a technique for being more porous and an example of a company inviting in external knowledge.
In what circumstances is it easy for you to be porous? When is it most challenging?
Posted in business, collaboration, porous
Tagged boundaries, collaboration, crowdsourcing, Debra Exner, ideas, innovation, inviting, Maddie Hunter, open, permeable, points of view, porous
Last night, I was listening to my favorite radio program, From the Top. Here in Phoenix, it’s on KBAQ, every Sunday evening at 7pm and it features the best young classical musicians in the country. The featured story was about William Harvey. His original dream was to be the next Joshua Bell.
His vision changed after playing for the soldiers who had spent an exhausting day clearing away rubble at Ground Zero. He wrote:
At Juilliard, kids are hypercritical of each other and very competitive. The teachers expect, and in most cases get, technical perfection. But this wasn’t about that. The soldiers didn’t care that I had so many memory slips I lost count. They didn’t care that when I forgot how the second movement of the Tchaikovsky went, I had to come up with my own insipid improvisation until I somehow (and I still don’t know how) got to a cadence. I’ve never seen a more appreciative audience, and I’ve never understood so fully what it means to communicate music to other people.
Harvey was struck by the real power of music and went on to found the non-profit Cultures in Harmony. He believes that music can help bring peace to our world.
Cultures in Harmony collaborates with other non-profit organizations, governments, agencies and schools to create projects that bring musicians to other countries such as Moldava, the Philipines, and Egypt. Once there, the musicians collaborate with each other and local musicians on western classical music, music of the country they are visiting and original compositions they create on the spot.
I hope that you will be as inspired I am by this organization. Explore the stories of their projects and the important work they are doing. And on this page you’ll find a list of creative ways you can celebrate their fifth anniversary and help their efforts.
Posted in collaboration, music & arts, non-profit
Tagged collaboration, cultural diplomacy, Cultures in Harmony, Debra Exner, From the Top, Joshua Bell, KBAQ, Maddie Hunter, music, William Harvey, world peace
I seem to be experiencing everything in my life these days as a symbol of some aspect of collaboration. It’s like the phenomenon of suddenly noticing all the crimson red Priuses on the road after buying one yourself or not being able to avoid walking side-by-side with pregnant woman when you are going through infertility treatments.
Collaboration as a lens
Whatever I am thinking about seems to show up in my life or at least I find the connection with the help of my creative mind.
Last Friday’s car ride to one of the outer boroughs of New York offered me yet more evidence of the power of coming together. My creative writing group friends, Mickey Waring, Jan Margolis and Marcia Holtzman became passengers in my car for our trip to Brooklyn. This was the first of a series of rotating writing group meetings and we were headed towards the home of Donna Rubens. Our 45 minute ride from Metuchen was full of each of our unique energies.
Jan had her GPS system to augment our printed directions. Jan, the calm, guiding and reassuring one showed us the way from Route 287 to the Staten Island Expressway, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and beyond. Her eye on our path kept us on target.
Mickey, the first to jump into the front seat with me, brought her open, honest spirit to our midst with her talk of being hungry. Of course we all in unison felt the need to stop for a bagel in support of Mickey. The compassion of this group of women towards one anther is unequaled. Mickey has helped make it safe for all of us to say what we need at any time.
And then there was Marcia. Her quiet affirmations of my driving skill encouraged me to relax into being the one to carry us on. In the life of our writing group called WOM – Writers of Metuchen – Marcia has taught us the importance of highlighting the promise and the positive potential of what we each write. Our energy as a group grows from this strong foundation.
A simple car ride across 2 boroughs of New York reminds me of some of the key elements that sustain collective efforts. Clear goals, honest expressions and a positive outlook help strengthen our writing group. How lucky we are to know one another. It’s no accident that I am co-writing a book on collaboration and I know from trip’s like this one to Brooklyn, the subject had some of it’s birth in the life I have shared with this group of writers.
Now that I have you thinking about collaboration, what will you notice around you today?
Do you take the escalator rather than the stairs? What would it take for you to consider the more effortful way to climb? Take a look at this video and see if this fun idea would make you leave your lazy tendencies aside. Debbie and I are asking ourselves what this video has to do with collaboration. It’s true that collaboration can be fun. We’re admitting that collaborating for us is the fun way we can get things done. What is the connection to collaboration that you see here?