One of the more interesting challenges working at EMC is the amount of global university research and innovation that occurs at facilities around the world: Russia, Ireland/Europe, Israel, Egypt, China, India, the United States, and most recently Brazil. It's challenging to track it all and collaborate efficiently.
I've been thinking about different ways to solve this problem. It occured to me that perhaps the solution should be crafted by the global community instead of at corporate headquarters in the United States. I began to look for a way to quickly form a team that works towards a vision of increased global collaboration for research and innovation.
I was also looking for a way to do it without asking permission. That sort of stuff takes too long, especially when it comes to global sign-off.
My research led me towards COINs: Collaborative Innovation Networks. If you would like a primer on COINs, I would start with the Wikipedia article. The article mentioned the following reference:
Peter Gloor (2005) Swarm Creativity: Competitive Advantage Through Collaborative Innovation Networks
I ended up purchasing the book and it was quite helpful. In addition, I found out that Peter works locally at MIT, so I contacted him and we got together. In fact, he invited me to a PhD thesis on global collaboration that I recently wrote about.
I explained to Peter my thoughts about finding a better way to collaborate on global research and innovation. He told me that a COIN would be a wise idea. (He also expressed a significant amount of skepticism on whether a COIN could be implemented at a large corporation like EMC ;>).
He then laid out a set of logical steps for COIN formation. I took the following notes as he spoke:
- Introduce the vision.
- Create a "one-liner", an easy-to-memorize vision
- Familiarize the people with the vision
- Cede power
- Set short-term and long-term goals
- Keep it small, and try for regular face-to-face meetings
- Blunt language is good
- Build momentum via webcasts
- Host brown-bag sessions
- Spawn COIN prototypes
Peter reiterated that step #4 is often the hardest, especially at a large corporation. I've tried to follow these steps and we had our first meeting on Tuesday. The meeting literally spanned the globe from as far east as Beijing to as far west as California.
I recommend the Swarm Creativity book. The best part about a COIN (if we can pull it off) is that it leads to Collaborative Learning Networks (CLNs) and Collaborative Interest Networks (CINs).
I hope to write more about this journey as it unfolds.