Calling all Extroverts! Why You’re Wired to Collaborate


I once had the amazing opportunity to interview Jack Welch at a Cisco event.  For 60 minutes we sat side-by-side on stage, within a few inches of each other, but there was no doubt he was the only person in the room in the eyes of the audience.   While his wisdom had the audience captivated, it was his extroverted personality that made the discussion truly fun and engaging.  As an extrovert, Welch fed off the audience’s rousing responses to his thoughts – and his occasional finger-wagging at the leaders in the audience about the future of competition.  The audience loved it.


Sometimes people mistake the behavior of extroverts as “showing off” or trying to command too much attention.  What Jack Welch taught me about extroverts is that their energy rises when they’re connecting with people; extroverts get excited when other people are excited to be with them.  As collaborators, extroverts can play a crucial role in group dynamics.  Action-oriented by nature, extroverts can compel a group forward – especially at key points of agreement or action.


My colleague Carl Wiese and I decided to devote an entire chapter of our book, The Collaboration Imperative (, to the importance of personal communication styles and how to accelerate authentic conversations by collaborating in your natural style.  We even created a tool to help you improve your inter-personal communication profile:


  • Click here to take a quick online assessment to discover your authentic communication style (Click on the green “Take GAC Survey” button).  This confidential assessment is a bit like Myers-Briggs and provides a customized profile of your unique communication style; it reveals how you naturally process information, and how you prefer to deliver that information to others.  Most importantly, the assessment provides a simple vocabulary to communicate your style to others.


My message is simple: both introverts and extroverts can help collaborative teams move faster and be more innovative – as long as you play to your strengths.  We’ve all seen people trying to be someone they’re genuinely not – it’s not only ineffective personally, it can slow a team down.  The nature of work today is such that teams come together very fast and disband equally as fast.   Modern teams work better when the members of the team understand each other faster.


So for you introverts out there (I’m one of them), here’s what I have learned working with extroverts and how extroverts can turbo-charge collaboration teams.  I call these the three “E’s of collaboration”:


  • Explain where you are coming from.  This is true for introverts, too.  One of the most important things we can do as collaborators is to declare our authentic styles to others.  The quicker your teammates know you as a thinker, the faster you can play to your strengths in the group.  Extroverts need to let the introverts know that their passion, enthusiasm and expressiveness are natural states and nothing else – not over-confidence, not a power trip.  We’re often told as leaders to be more vulnerable. Tell people you’re an extrovert; let your team know you can’t help yourself when the group gets excited, you get excited.
  • Ease in.  Being self-aware of your authentic style is critical to knowing when to leverage your strengths in a group or team setting.  Extroverts by nature are enthusiastic and quick to action.  But not everyone on a team moves at the same pace.  As extroverts, plan ahead for team meetings; examine the agenda and content areas of a team dynamic; try to pinpoint where your extroverted leadership will be most important to advance team cohesion and focus – typically when it’s time to inspire a team to decide something or start execute something.
  • Engage the introverts.  The single most consistent question I get from extroverts is this:  how do I get introverts to talk?  I’m sure there are a few psychology books written on the topic, but I’ve found that there is one simple, sure-fire way:  Ask a question.  You’d be surprised how this elegant gesture of interest can bring someone’s perspective to the forefront of a discussion.  Most importantly, acknowledge their thoughts as a means of demonstrating that you also listened to their perspective.


Collaboration can speed up the pace of execution in any organization and that’s why CEOs are so attracted to its potential.  Extroverts and introverts alike are wired in their own ways to collaborate.  The more in-touch you are with your authentic style, the more effective you can lead your team in the race to execution success.


Let me know your ideas in the comments!



Calling all Introverts! Why You’re Wired to Collaborate


Extroverts get too much credit.  There, I’ve said it.  I’m not exactly sure what I mean by “credit”, but extroverts tend to stand out through their natural behavior.  Extroverted leaders glide into rooms and engage instantly in the most important conversations.  What makes collaboration so challenging for many organizations is the nature of the work:  teams come together, solve a problem and move on to a new challenge.  Extroverts by nature fit easily into these stimulating situations where human-to-human interaction and engagement are the keys to success.


At this point you might be thinking, especially if you’re an introvert like me, “Is he about to give me the ‘buck up’ speech about ‘stepping up to the plate’ and ‘putting my voice on the table’”?  My real message is simple:  both introverts and extroverts can help collaborative teams move faster and be more innovative – as long as you play to your strengths.


My colleague Carl Wiese and I decided to devote an entire chapter of our book, The Collaboration Imperative (, to the importance of personal communication styles and how to accelerate authentic conversations by collaborating in your natural style.   We even created a tool to help you improve your inter-personal communication profile. (Click here to take a quick online assessment to discover your authentic communication style – Click on the green “Take Survey” button. This confidential assessment is a bit like the Myers-Briggs test and provides you with a customized profile of your unique communication style; it reveals how you naturally process information, and how you prefer to deliver that information to others .Most importantly, the assessment provides a simple vocabulary to communicate your style to others. Are you conceptual or analytical?  An introvert or an extrovert?


But today’s blog is devoted to introverts.  I love my extrovert friends – but you get too much attention.  :)


In observing and working with collaboration teams, and as a practicing introvert, I would suggest these three strategies to excel as a collaborative teammate – what I call the three “C’s”:


1. Codify your point of view:  Ok, this applies to extroverts, too.  But it is particularly important for introverts, where it isn’t a natural first instinct to contribute in a conversation involving strangers.  But a point of view is powerful.  It gives you a consistent perspective, a grounded belief to put your ideas out there faster and shape conversations.  This point of view is always there to help you, like a trusted friend, in new conversations with new people.   I’ve found that when I participate on teams, they often try to bite off more than they can chew, especially at the beginning.  I always say “sacrifice is the essence of great positioning” as my point of view toward getting the team focused.  If all I do is help a team get focused, then I’ve done a lot.

2. Choose your “meeting moments”:  Collaborative teams work best when meetings follow a consistent meeting structure and approach – so that teams can focus on the problem and not the agenda and goals of the meeting.  Introverts by nature are thoughtful about what they communicate and when they communicate.  Plan ahead by looking to future agendas. Have more than your point of view prepared; have your interpretation of the problem prepared in your specific area of expertise – and be ready to ‘lean in’ to the conversation.  If the extroverts aren’t letting you elbow your way into the conversation (haha), exercise the power of introverts:  ask the question that stops the conversation in its tracks. For more on making the most of meetings, read Meeting H*ll: Stop Wasting Time.

3. Curate your social reputation:  Social media was invented for introverts.   You control the message, the medium, the timing. Not every social tool will be right for you.  Don’t worry; there are enough options for everyone.  It’s helpful to look at other elements of your communication style when considering social media.  For example, Deductive thinkers tend to think in conclusions. Thus, Deductive Introverts are wired for Twitter.  If you are an Inductive thinker, where you value the steps taken to reach a conclusion, the Inductive Introvert is a natural blogger where sufficient detail can convey the message.  Pick the social media tool best aligned to you and get your point-of-view out there.


Collaboration is what creates speed in any organization and that’s why CEOs are so attracted to its potential.  It’s up to us as leaders and managers to lead from the top. As a practicing corporate introvert, I can say that Codifying, Choosing and Curating have served me well.  Someone once told me this – “never forget to ask for the order.”  That’s your job, Introverts.  Just do it in a way only an introvert could (and don’t let those extroverts know what we’re up to).


Let me know your ideas in the comments!



The Evolution of Collaboration

Early on, companies looked to Collaboration technologies to capture extraordinary financial and productivity returns. This hasn’t changed. But more and more, companies are looking for strategic benefits as well, such as the ability to open up new markets, radically improve relationships with customers and transform entire industries.

There are seismic shifts taking place in our increasingly connected business world with the advent of mobile, video and cloud technologies. This opens up new opportunities to tap the full talent of people and move with greater speed and innovation.

In an interview at CiscoLive, I shared my thoughts on the rapid move to the cloud, the advantages of video embedded in business processes, and the role of collaboration in the Internet of Everything. Hear more in the video below.

Build Team Trust… Fast.


Build team trust… fast.

    How to encourage people to do what they say they’re going to do.


Trust is weaved into almost every aspect of our lives. I trusted that my car would get me to the airport this morning, that the pilots and crew would get me to Washington D.C., and that my cab driver would find my hotel. This all comes so naturally. So why does the role of trust in collaboration inside organizations remain such a mystery?

For more than 150 years, organizations have been organized in silos that breed internal competition for resources. The psychology of competing with your teammates for resources, in turn, encouraged an insidious way of working:  passive-aggressive behaviors where humans work side-by-side but work subtly against each other even though they are employed by the same firm.


Trust anchors every successful collaborative team.

We researched at Cisco the most important factors in creating trust on collaboration teams, and the single most important factor is revealing:  do people do what they say they are going to do?

As leaders, it is up to us to be overtly aggressive at vanquishing passive-aggressive behaviors and building real, human trust.  We have no choice in our hyper-connected world where change is constant and work is increasingly global, mobile and virtual. As distance and time condense, it stresses out the calmest of us as we scramble to meet deadlines while working with people that likely we’ve never met.

So what’s the key to building team trust?

“Replace uncertainty with clarity. Articulate the team’s purpose and
establish up front what you expect from each member.”

The Collaboration Imperative


How to build a team charter

A team charter helps clarify a team’s purpose, role, shared goals and scope; a charter eliminates ambiguity of expectations. As leaders, we can make a team charter the focal point around which the team builds healthy collaboration habits.

It’s possible to move beyond your gut feel and hope trust develops on your team; it is possible to operationalize it. Trust is too important to, well, just trust that it’ll happen. To that end, we’ve found that a team charter is most effective when it is composed of five elements:


  1. 1. Team purpose:  describes specific challenges, opportunities or tasks the team will address (and also expectations).

  1. 2. Team role:  teams form for different reasons.  Know why your team exists – is it to align a group around an initiative?  Is it to execute a priority together?  What are the different roles of individuals on the team? Read more about various team roles in Chapter 5 of “The Collaboration Imperative.”

  1. 3. Shared goals:  most collaborative teams have people from different backgrounds, functions and even companies. Make sure despite your differences, you’re all chasing the same goals. These goals allow you to create a specific definition of what success looks like and allow you to map your goals to performance management.

  1. 4. Scope:  establish well-defined boundaries of what you hope to do. These “guardrails” allow you to say no to ‘scope creep’! This helps members determine their time commitment and helps the team as a whole stay on track.

    1. 5. Establish ground rules. Put ground rules in place for team procedures and processes (including meeting logistics), how you use your time together, who makes final decisions, how to resolve conflict, and how respect and courtesy are paramount.


A team charter is a powerful means to enable trust-building on your collaboration teams. Keep in mind that a team charter should be paired with a common vocabulary. Sweat the details of your team’s vocabulary. Ask if everyone on the team has the same definitions in their heads for the vocabulary you are using to articulate the charter. Don’t let the definition of a word be the reason trust is derailed!

The management science is pretty clear here: teams that trust each other outperform teams that don’t. Are you outperforming?

How Curious is Your Organization?

I recently was asked by a customer how he could encourage his organization to be “more curious.” I think as leaders we can all imagine the positive outcomes from any organization that is “curious” – less insular, more listening, faster sensing. I would go as far as to say that any organization trying to become adaptable, agile or execute just plain faster in today’s hyper-connected markets requires a strong dose of “curiosity” baked into its culture. I think an argument can be made that the ability to adapt may be proportional to one’s capacity for curiosity.

But how do you create a curious culture? I struggled with this question until the January 2013 issue of National Geographic landed in my mailbox with this cover theme: “Why We Explore.” Inside was a fascinating article called “Restless Genes” written by David Dobbs. The article ( ) provided panoply of scientific evidence as to why humans explore.

The compulsion to see what lies beyond the far ridge or that ocean – or this planet—is a defining part of human identity and success.” – David Dobbs.

The article helped me conceptualize a framework for enabling a curiosity-based culture inside an organization. I learned three things about human behavior that encourages us to explore – why we are curious – and what we as leaders can do to unleash some of it our organizations.

First, I was stunned to understand that about 20 percent of human beings have a mutated gene called DRD4-R7. Those of us with this gene tend to be more curious and restless; we take more risks in exploring new places, food and ideas. Remarkably, Dobbs says people with this “explorer’s gene” who lived a settled lifestyle within the confines of a village tended to “wither” and become malnourished. Dobbs went to great pains to point out that a gene alone does not make someone an explorer. In the right environmental conditions, however, those with the gene flourished and the societies around them benefited from the bounties of their exploration.

Here is what I think this means to us as leaders: We must institutionalize a system to identify and engage the explorers inside our organizations. In Cisco, we have a select group of men and women called Distinguished Engineers – a tiny fraction of Cisco’s engineering team, but these “DE’s” as they are called, are the Internet’s original explorers who invented the standards and products powering the mobile, social, visual and virtual world we all take for granted today. But truthfully Cisco did not always know how to engage these DEs in our day-to-day engineering innovations – I guess you could say that for a while they were “settled” and undeniably restless. To his credit, Cisco’s President and COO Gary Moore recognized this gap and over the past two years has re-engaged the DE community and many are now serving in CTO roles across the engineering organization. The lesson: Formalize a system to recognize your explorers and ensure they are consistently engaged in your team’s innovation paths.

A restless person may thrive in a changeable environment but wither in a stable one; likewise with any genes that help produce the restlessness.” David Dobbs.

The article identified a second trait about human explorers that I already knew: the extended childhood of a human is unique among our closest genetic neighbors. What I didn’t grasp is the impact of childhood on exploration. What’s uniquely human is the many years we get to play, fail and succeed at games that help us grasp the possibilities and rewards of exploring. (Ok, I can admit it, I was one of those kids who stood in the driveway facing his basketball hoop with this imaginary game going through my head, Ricci has the ball…five seconds to go…he takes Earl “The Pearl” Monroe left… he fakes…he shoots…he scores!!!) These years as a “child” and the games we play as children are vital in learning the value of exploration and its rewards.

It’s completely possible to create “play” inside organizations. At Cisco, one of our leadership development disciplines focuses on experiential learning, where leaders play roles and different personas in solving real-world Cisco problems. Nothing is at stake, other than perhaps a bruised ego of learning an important lesson – we call this “action learning.” Another example of “play” inside an organization is the use of “knowledge markets,” a structured form of crowd-sourcing where ideas to problems compete with each other in a “market.” Cisco has leveraged knowledge markets for a wide range of applications; we once used it to identify the top five questions on the mind of Cisco’s leadership team about the company’s strategy. Dobbs says that as we get older, we tend to play less. The lesson: “playing” may have to be manufactured, encouraged and rewarded to model the lesson of taking risks, failing and learning.

We do less of this (play) as we get older and become less willing to explore novel alternatives and are more conditioned to stick with familiar ones.” Alison Gopnick, quoted in “Restless Genes” and author of The Scientist in the Crib.

I already knew that human hands with our five fingers, including a thumb, were a competitive advantage for Homo sapiens in the battle for resources. In the final lesson from the article, what I didn’t’ know is that societies tended to develop mythology around those people who excelled at “clever hands,” as author Dobbs refers to innovations created by those hands. Mythology made it “cool” to be “clever”; a little like the adulation the Steve Jobs’ of the world receive today. The marine vocabulary of the Polynesians conferred great status on ship builders; as Dobbs says, “Like today’s astronauts.” This social standing was a motivating force to continue exploring. I recently visited Cisco’s customer briefing center in Tokyo and, as I walked down the hallway past a bank of Cisco equipment, I stopped because I saw a box that was a different color from all the others. It was white with red lettering on it. I knew right away when my eyes focused specifically on this box that I was looking at a Cisco “AGS” router, the product that was used in the first-ever commercial Internet connection. A group of us just stood there for a few minutes and talked about what this AGS box meant to Cisco – and the world. It is not an understatement to say the AGS changed the world. I’ve always believed that culture is built on the backs of important symbols. The mythology around the Cisco AGS router is every bit in our vocabulary as the sail is in the Polynesian marine vocabulary. The lesson: Nostalgia is what keeps an organization from moving forward, but the myths of what symbolizes the great accomplishments of your organization should be celebrated and must be front and center in your team’s culture.

When you set sail to find new lands, you became mythologized – even if you didn’t come back.” National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis quoted in “Restless Genes.”

Cisco CEO John Chambers frequently says culture is the responsibility of leaders. Curiosity may kill the cat, but it may be the most important attribute of a resilient organization in a constant state of evolution to win in today’s markets. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to set curiosity free inside our organizations, in the same way the great human explorers dared to go places that others feared but few ventured.

“…for the larger powers we gain through culture…it gives our malleable genomes, imaginative minds, and clever hands the power to transform even the strongest forces in our environment — wind, water, current — from threat to opportunity.” David Dobbs.


This article is also posted at Switch and Shift:

Virtual Work Works, But Don’t Confuse Technology with Change Management

I was in a brainstorm meeting about my team’s next-generation strategy last week, and we made a number of random connections that knitted together a pretty big idea – the kind of dot-connecting that only happens when people with different (and sometime conflicting) perspectives trust each other in the pursuit of an important goal.
Five of us worked on the idea, but only two of us were in the room physically together. Yes, I’ll say it out-loud: three people were working from home.

Much has been said and written recently about the value of working virtually, and I don’t think you can sub-divide mobility into “at home” and “on the road.” Social technologies, video and mobile platforms make it easy to work from just about anywhere.

But as leaders, we have to resist the temptation to confuse technology with change management – despite our love affair with technology. Any time technology brings a sea-change transformation to the way humans do stuff, especially work stuff, we can’t forget that people work in organizations – and organizations are an amalgam of culture, processes and technology.

All of Cisco’s experience has taught us that technology alone does not create sustainable productivity; it is the way culture supports the behaviors needed to make the technology effective and processes that support and optimize it. Ultimately any organization needs to determine its “system” for collaborating as teams, whether those teams are in the same room all the time or working virtually anywhere in the world. No model is right or wrong; it is what works for the mission of that organization.

For those organizations where work is an outcome, not a place, here are some best practices from The Collaboration Imperative ( on making virtual work work:

• Culture: Focus on shared goals, not location. Studies show that establishing rapport and trust is a key challenge of working on a virtual team. As leaders, it’s our job to replace uncertainty with trust by articulating your team’s charter and the ground rules of what you can expect from each other. In Cisco, we’ve found that virtual teams exceed expectations when their team charter answers four questions: What is our purpose? What is your role against our purpose? What are our shared goals and how are we measuring success? What is the scope of our work and where are the boundaries? Finally, another simple but profound cultural consideration: be pragmatic about scheduling meetings on a global calendar and rotate start times to accommodate time zones – you will be pleasantly surprised by the reaction of your global peers

• Process: Stop wasting time in meetings. Knowledge workers spend more than half their time in meetings with colleagues or customers, regardless of location. We’ve all been in “meeting hell,” where we’re asking basic questions like, “Who called this meeting?” or “What’s the agenda?” or “What are we trying to accomplish here?” Any meeting – physical or virtual, but most importantly for virtual – needs discipline. Chapter Six of The Collaboration Imperative is devoted to a “Clarity of Purpose” model for meeting management; where one meeting type is devoted to reporting, such as an “inform” meeting. Another is devoted to conceptualizing or brainstorming, such as an “exchange” meeting. A final quick tip: adopt a common vocabulary for making decisions. If “strategy” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone in the meeting, how can any team be effective?

• Technology: Make video communications ubiquitous on your team. The social science on body language is pretty clear – 80 or 90% of what we communicate comes from body language. If you can’t see your team, it is hard to know how engaged they are. My strategy brainstorm discussion was hosted in WebEx and we all had our video cameras on. The point isn’t the video, it’s what video lets you do as a leader – engage your team.

In and of themselves, any of these approaches would add value to how teams perform. In combination, they can produce both discretionary effort through more effective engagement, but also measurably superior results.

One of Cisco’s customers doesn’t call their virtual meetings “video meetings”; they call them “flawless meetings.” It’s what we get done virtually that matters most. While Cisco has achieved considerable real estate savings with teleworking, perhaps the most important measure is the performance of the people themselves who are working virtually. The numbers are pretty clear: As a percentage of the company’s population, teleworkers receive a higher share of the top grades in Cisco’s performance management system.

When process-culture-technology are managed like an integrated, coordinated system driving a deliberate change management strategy, it’s possible for leaders to get more done while creating passion and discretionary effort — no matter where people work. If you are considering a virtual worker program, do you have a change management strategy? Do you know what cultural norms need to evolve or adapt? Do you have rigor to your virtual team processes? How you answer these questions will predict success or failure as much as any technology that enables the virtual work.

Follow me on Twitter: @RonRicciCisco Interviews Authors of The Collaboration Imperative

What Makes Collaboration Actually Work in a Company?

by Kare Anderson,

“I’ve yet to meet a CEO who didn’t want his or her company to move faster,” wrote Ron Ricci, a Cisco executive. In this disruptive era, the companies that will survive are those that can adapt most swiftly. Rapidly exiting the Home Networking business, as Cisco did recently, couldn’t have happened if the firm had not developed a clear, transparent and collaborative decision making process according to Ricci and his Cisco colleague and co-author of The Collaboration Imperative, Carl Wiese.

Read the rest of the article on

Inside the Collaboration Crystal Ball: Four New Year’s Resolutions to Speed Up Your Organization

Organizations of all types enter 2013 with one key priority:  how do they move faster and execute with greater agility while still remaining flexible and adaptable to the rapid changes in markets? 

CEOs around the world are looking to collaboration as their top strategy to increase the speed of their organizations. Why?  Because collaboration eliminates the friction that slows organizations down – whether that friction comes from people or processes. 

The amount of friction in your organization is directly proportional to your ability to speed up your team.  Friction is sometimes purposeful, such as passive-aggressive behavior.  Other times friction comes from processes that create decisions without any clarity or a clear definition of success.

Here are four New Year’s resolutions for all leaders to curb their organizational friction and speed up their team’s execution with collaboration:

1.) Take a holistic view of collaboration. Collaboration does indeed deliver transactional value, such as Telepresence, which eliminates the need to travel.  But the transformative value of collaboration comes from looking at your organization holistically – by leveraging culture, process and technology in combination. My Cisco colleague Carl Wiese and I wrote The Collaboration Imperative with this end-to-end perspective in mind.  You can read a sample chapter of our book that here outlines this holistic approach to collaboration.

2.) Embrace the behaviors of a collaborative leader. Of all the strategies available to leaders to create speed in their organizations, none is more important than the behaviors of the leaders themselves. This is because nothing slows an organization down more than a culture of internal competition and the executive behaviors that encourage it. Collaboration encourages a culture of shared goals as it minimizes hoarding and competition by creating an environment that shares information, diagnoses problems, raises concerns, coordinates efforts and identifies possible initiatives and transition points – all which ratchet up the pace of an organization’s ability to execute. Read more about the four behaviors of collaborative leaders here.

3.) Invest in your collaboration persona. Leadership is how we “show up” every day in front of our teams.  But how do we show up as leaders in a world where work is increasingly done on a mobile phone or tablet, or using a video chat, web conference or Telepresence? This is one of the greatest leadership challenges of this hyper-connected world. As a leader you will need to know what I like to call your “collaboration persona” – that way in which your leadership style shows up when you’re not in the physical world. We all have to learn to be virtual stars in our own, authentic way.  You can learn more about how to understand and embrace your collaboration persona in this blog.

4.) Make clarity and decision making synonymous.  At each stage in the chain of decision-making in your organization, ambiguity looms as the enemy of clarity. In worst cases, ambiguity leads to conspiracy theories and people actually work against each other. In most cases, work simply slows down while people seek out answers. I’m convinced that most people don’t wake up in the morning trying to second-guess decisions. Ambiguity is your enemy as the leader of a team. You can transform your team’s natural curiosity into a powerful source of discretionary effort – all it takes is a little clarity.  Read here for ways to increase decision clarity on your team.

Good luck with your own new year’s resolutions.

Follow me on Twitter at @RonRicciCisco


GREAT WORK’s Michael Bungay Stanier Interviews Ron Ricci

by Michael Bungay Stanier of GREAT WORKS

For more than a decade, Ron has worked at Cisco as the vice president of executive and customer engagement to develop and nurture a culture of sharing collaborative processes. Ron’s work lays out in 21st century terms the increasing need to have global reach and connect with teams around the world. He is co-author of The Collaboration Imperative, a beautifully designed book that is very accessible, fun and engaging. In it, he weaves both his experience at Cisco as well as other organizations to understand and encourage new approaches to teamwork. In this interview Ron and I discuss his perspective on collaboration, including:

  • How to take a holistic approach to collaboration
  • The shiny object syndrome
  • Three meeting formats to help you stop wasting so much time
  • Understanding different decision-making styles

Listen to the audio interview here:

Times of Change are When the Big Winners are Created

Over the next decade, your industry will undergo radical change. How you bring products to market. How you organize your company and your teams. How people perform their jobs. The rule books we’ve relied on don’t apply anymore.

But this isn’t a time for fear or anxiety. Peter Drucker said it best:  “Innovation requires us to systematically identify changes that have already occurred in a business—in demographics, in values, in technology or science—and then to look at them as opportunities. It also requires something that is most difficult for existing companies to do: to abandon rather than defend yesterday.”

In 1971, when FedEx founder Fred Smith said he was going to deliver mail by jets, most thought he was crazy. In 1980, the creators of Whole Foods broke the mold when they entered a mature industry—with razor thin margins and driven by sales and coupons—and introduced the idea of charging premium prices for fresh, organic groceries.  And when Apple announced opened its first retail store in 2001, Newsweek ran an article titled “Sorry, Steve: Here’s Why Apple Stores Won’t Work.” 

Times of change are when the big winners are created. And this is a perfect moment to leverage Collaboration to reinvent your industry, to reinvent how your teams work, to reinvent yourself. The last time we saw this kind of market transformation was with the Internet. Only this time, we aren’t connecting networks, we are connecting people and applications.

Ask yourself:

  • How is Collaboration uniquely advancing your industry—and what more is possible?
  • What factors constrain the pace of innovation in your industry, and what kind of advantage would we gain by innovating faster?
  • What new business models can your industry enable with virtual teams, mobile productivity and stronger customer interactions?
  • What is holding your industry back and how could improved Collaboration overcome these barriers?
  • How are competitors reinventing your industry today—and where are the opportunities to leap ahead?

Will you lead that change? Will you step up and assume the role of Chief Collaboration Officer in your organization? Big winners are created in times like these. These big winners get comfortable with the fluid business world we live in. They find excitement in navigating the unknown. They see opportunity in chaos. They challenge conventional thinking. Now it’s your turn.