The world is being dramatically changed by a trend of “reimagining,” said Michael Sampson, collaboration strategist and author of several books on collaboration.

Uber has reimagined short term transportation, airbnb has reimagined short term housing, Amazon is using drones to deliver packages and shoes send haptic messages to the wearer’s feet, letting them know whether to turn right or left.

In other words, the world is being reimagined and it’s time, Sampson said, to reimagine effective work.

Transforming Work. And More

Sampson flew from New Zealand this week to speak at Collabosphere in Austin, Texas. It’s the fifth annual collaboration conference sponsored by Central Desktop, a collaboration Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vendor that focuses on creative agencies.

Central Desktop is a PGi company and the conference took place at PGI’s modern concrete-unvarnished wood and metal Austin headquarters, which was considerably more chill than a beige hotel ballroom. Reimagining conferences.

Sampson listed numerous changes that should transform work including mobile accessibility, cloud computing, co-working spaces and the ability to network with talent globally.

As a result, he said, organizations can now:

  • Find the best talent across world
  • Create organizational cultures based on openness, transparency and outcomes rather than protocols.
  • Revise organizational structures

Keep Holding On?

The problem, Sampson said is “assumptions about work die hard … we see what we’ve been trained to see. We see the improvements we’ve learned to see.”

We’re so used to our current system that we struggle to reimagine anything. And if we analyze our current processes too much, we blur our vision to the possibilities.

Organizations, he said, have to make it okay for someone to throw out an idea that someone else will label “weird.” Then they iterate until they get something great.

He gave nine rules for creating innovative collaboration in organizations:

  1. Know what is possible. You can, for example, meet without a meeting.
  2. Look at the world through binoculars not a magnifying glass. You have to ask: What is going on in the wider world and what’s the three to five year outlook for your industry? Who is doing great stuff?
  3. Study beyond your industry.
  4. Do things that inspire creativity. In Finland, Sampson said, people have business meetings naked in saunas. He doesn’t see that happening in the US or New Zealand but it opens up the options.
  5. Work in pencil. If you present a finished product in ink, no one feels free to collaborate with you.
  6. Analyze your assumptions. Do you have sacred cows? Maybe you shouldn’t.
  7. Observe how others perform work and don’t reject it just because you never thought of doing it that way.
  8. Embrace the stupid first draft. It’s the first step toward the nearly perfect 10th.
  9. Ask “why not?” instead of “why?” Someone in the taxi industry could have dreamed up Uber but they didn’t.

Thinking in new ways challenges people, Sampson admitted. So organizations have to cultivate innovative thinking. “You have to find the people who are weird enough to do it,” he said. “Somebody or some group of people who are able to see more broadly.”

Title image by Mallory Johndrow.