Meet Patrick

Patrick is a 45yr old executive, who has just been given a new project by our CEO to figure out how we can launch into the APAC market.

Patrick’s first reaction is not excitement or joy. Patrick is trying to figure out if he is being hung out to dry. Who knows. Patrick goes back to his office and starts thinking about who he will involve in this new project. He breaks his list into three groups:

  1. The Givers — those he can extract ideas from, so he may later package them up as his own
  2. The Gatekeepers — folks he must be seen to include, even if he doesn’t intend or want to
  3. The Stepladders — folks he can earn some brownie points with

Patrick starts the tedious back and forth of trying to get into peoples’ diaries, and preparing mini-briefs for subsequent interviews and workshops. In parallel he plans what he will need as a project team, and wonders if he can extract some corporate budget for travel, workshop catering and a few lunches — especially with the Stepladders.

Meet Julie

Julie is a 28yr old who started 8 months ago. The CEO of a similar company has given Julie the exact same project.

Julie is pumped. She immediately jumps on social media to let her friends and colleagues know the CEO has given her this awesome new project. She throws together a digital workboard, and quickly braindumps what she learnt from the CEO’s briefing, and adds a few of her own ideas.

She names the workboard “let’s tackle APAC” and invites anyone who wants to join. People of all ages, functions and roles across the company start contributing ideas to Julie’s workboard. As the project is not confidential, Julie has also thrown the workboard out to her social network, university classmates, mentors and past teachers. People have a natural disposition to help, and they love the way Julie is so positive about this project and the potential opportunities for her company.

Julie Gets Cracking

As the ideas start to flow in, Julie creates several virtual teams. She breaks the project down into sizeable chunks — competitor research, product selection and pricing, distribution options and marketing — and her friends and colleagues start voluntarily joining and collaborating on the aspects they are interested. The ideas are flowing and within 3 days Julie has generated huge interest and momentum. So far she has 60 people helping her, many of them are interstate and a few are based overseas. 38 are employees of the company, 22 are external.

Like Patrick, Julie also wants to consult key stakeholders, so she makes a list and invites them to the same digital workboard. Some of them are senior executives in the company, and they are somewhat surprised to find themselves added to different digital groups with a buzz of people interacting from all over the globe on this new project. At first it feels like chaos, but after a day or two of participating these executives start to see the power of what’s taking place: real-time collaboration towards a common goal.

Next Julie creates a google doc, and allows anyone with the link to add comments. She maintains edit control, so she can balance the inputs she is receiving with her own thoughts and research. As she starts to write, about 50 people pop in and out of the live doc to see her progress go from rough notes, to sentences, to something that starts to resemble a business plan. As people add questions and suggestions, other people start to reply before Julie has even had a chance to read the original posts.

There is a free flowing exchange of ideas, and the project is racing along.

Back To Patrick

Meanwhile, Patrick has just conducted stakeholder interview number 2. It will take him three more weeks of diary juggling to get through his minimum list of Givers, Gatekeepers and Stepladders.

That’s no bother, because Patrick is already busy writing his report. After all, Patrick has been around the block and is comfortably numb working with what he already knows and can access.

Unlike Julie, Patrick will keep the first 10 or so iterations of his plan tightly under wraps. He first wants to carefully sound out a few of those Gatekeepers, before letting anyone read or hear what he is really thinking the company should do. If needed he’ll water down his own thinking, to make sure this project doesn’t get him fired or in the bad books with anyone that matters.

The Outcomes

Both Patrick and Julie finish on time.

Patrick’s plan has a lot more pages than Julie’s.

Julie’s plan is infinitely more creative and it is full of lateral ideas and real life examples.

But get this. Of the 1,600 employees at Julie’s company, over 140 have volunteered themselves into Julie’s project. Think of the power of that!

When it comes time to move from theory to implementation, Julie has already created this virtual community of folks who are interested in the project. Folks who had an opportunity to contribute. Folks who learnt heaps from their interactions with others.

Julie doesn’t care where the best ideas came from. Julie just wants the best result. She also wants to learn new things, make new friends and have a good time. Hats off to Julie.

I’ve worked with about 400 “Patricks” across six countries.

I prefer how millennials roll.