I don’t know but I will find out! The closest you can come to a verbal hug and the perfect way to show that you, as an expert, can validate a new thinker’s ideas.

Those that have seen me present in recent times will have heard me talk (babble on) about the rapid rise of what David Holmzer calls the ‘Collaborative Sensemaker’ his work describes the ‘death’ of the expert and the rise of people making sense of problems together. But maybe, just maybe, the phrase I don’t know but I will find out has to become the rallying call of the sense maker; ensuring that collaborative and shared expertise is where the future lies for all of us striving daily to go one idea further on our journey.

The gap between making sense together and relying on the expert is a minefield – we have to make sure that at no point does the answer (the knowledge of the expert) make anyone feel ‘stupid’, rushed, cheap or ignoble. The phrase there are no stupid questions never rang out so true as it does in 2019. The answer to this wonderful question can inform a regrettable decision, one that sees a hopeful idea generator walk away through pride or protection. Making sense together is how the question should be answered and after all is how we were taught as children. The reliance on Google the all-knowing cabbage patch, has perhaps eased the human ability to puzzle through to the answer. Maybe this is why the exploding trend for the ‘Locked-In’ experiences is spreading like wildfire, the human need to work together on puzzles, to boldly go where no man has gone before, together!

This new style of team camaraderie has built up a great deal in many a digital transformation effort across the globe in the last 3 to 5 years. Moving away from the Star Wars ‘collaboration’ ethos of build an empire, crush the rebellious ones and convert everyone to MY way of thinking. The Star Trek ethos is now much stronger, boldly exploring together, offering ways of working as shared experiences and trying to deliver a network of cultures in it for the good of the whole.

I believe this new culture has been built on two items, the first being I don’t know but I know a ‘man’ who might and the absolute desire to avoid the we’ve always done it like that culture. Maybe its large organisations rather than ‘just’ the NHS (which was my previous experience) that have an abject fear of doing something different to how its always been done before but slowly and surely that culture is being eroded and I do think its that push to listen harder and offer to help more that is acting as the catalyst for the macro culture change.

The empowerment of others; customers, patients, colleagues has become so important, but we have to learn to take care to recognise this empowerment and the terms it is on! As an expert or experienced member of the team you don’t seek to take power from people when they look to collaborate, you recognise the power they have and celebrate it together. You can add to it wherever possible, enhance the experience of collaborating. In my new world when a customer comes prepared, asking informed questions (full of anxiety for their own lack of knowledge) then it is now our role to defuse the tension and create a new connection that builds a trusting relationship to share from. The definition of customer has been difficult in all of my most recent roles, even now in this role where the customer is clearer from a commercial point of view, the person spending money and seeking services, but in reality my role serves a multiplicity of customers internal and external. Leading innovation requires me to know how to make the customer feel they are asking ‘good’ questions and that the expertise we are accessing to help answer the questions is taking the posed problem seriously.

The expert and the collaborator can now cut through the white noise to deliver an answer, to even the most wicked of questions. We have now removed the ego from partnerships, none of us should desire to win at partnerships anymore, we have moved to a new world where the eco-system of partnerships is the most important particularly when we really start to list the issues we are trying to solve together. How can innovation be instrumental in finding a solution for issues as diverse as; the ageing population and increase in caregiver demands; rising stress in all parts of the community coupled with loneliness and social isolation; eCommerce growing ten times faster than ‘anyone’ predicted and to some how support the none-expert leader in the creation of a digital wellness revolution. All new questions that no one expert could answer. These key questions are the ones we now need to answer not as a high street healthcare organisation nor as the NHS but as good citizens that are able to rely upon each other to improve the health and wellbeing of our fellow man.

The UN sustainable development goals set out themes that are ripe for collaboration on, in fact they are goals that can only be achieved in collaboration.

No Poverty, Zero hunger, Good health and wellbeing, Quality education, Gender equality, Clean water and sanitation, Affordable and clean energy, Decent work and economic growth, Industry innovation and infrastructure, Reduced inequalities, Sustainable cities and communities, Responsible consumption and production, Climate action, Life below water, Life on land, Peace justice and strong institutions, Partnerships for the goals.

A modern set of commandments to live by for organisations with growth and sustainability agendas and a desire to innovate and remain relevant. The goals can’t be achieved or even the battle toward progress be made with what has fast become a fleeting newness, these goals in their own right need plans for organisational collaboration. These goals almost set themselves up as reasons to coalesce around the concepts of collaborative sensemaking. Not only do these goals require the ‘death’ of the expert to occur to achieve them but also the demise of a local authority, achieving against these goals will require a new kind of shared autonomy that will lead to a diplomatically held authority of the many, an authority that is routed in support of the collaboration at the top of its agenda.

So, if you are trying to make innovation happen today, then the phrase to celebrate has to be, I will just find out for you!



Huge thanks for the initial original idea Ms Kirsty Atkinson…