Meeting Rex Lee : collaboration, problem solving and innovation on the programme


I took advantage from my trip to attend Webcom Montreal to make a flying visit to Toronto. The main purpose was family but it was also the occasion to meet Rex Lee in person at his Toronto’s office. For those who don’t know him, he’s collaboration director at Bell Canada and, although less mediatized than many others, he’s blog is one of the most relevant on collaboration and social computing.

First step in the office, a wide open space, white boards all over the walls, a call for creativity. A “cross” space, as the team that makes it live, where people from all parts of the company can be gathered in order to improve the way they collaborate.

First shared opision : what is collaboration in 2008 ? It’s finding answers to questions, solving problems, together. It’s takes us to a new approach : it’s not about learning how to do together a defined productive task, it’s solving a problem. Obviously, others also share our point of view.

I’ll go further into this point in some of my next posts but some tracks can already be found : it’s more about knowledge, experience, stimulation rather than ability to execute. If methodology matters, it doesn’t describes what the final result should be…for the (good) reason that if we start solving problem it’s because we don’t know the answer. It implies a real change in the way people and projects have to be managed. It’s about always making new things even though we’ve been taught to endlessy repeat the same defined things, deviation is not a failure but creates value. To make it short, what has been creative people’s specificity so far will now apply at all operating operatives lines.

Humm…. and what about web 2.0 in all that. It can help but is useless until people get the right attitude. So working on attitude is the first thing to be done, and, then only, tools will make sens. It reminds me Danone’s networking attitude : all is in the attitude, the common practices. People have to develop suitable behaviors in their real life to use social medias the right way.

The we talked about innovation. Rex showed me the plateform they built in this purpose…simple and nice. How to make sure people participate ? Of course, those who’re interested in innovation do. It’s also important to  make sure that key people (those who can help, advise, have some expertise in a specific area) are informed of what’s being said in their area of expertise. At last, best rated ideas are presented, by their author, to a top executives comittee. Great idea : it motivates people and show their participation makes sense and is valuable for the company. But they also noticed the best ideas, those that lead to breakthrough innovation, usually don’t make a lot of noise when submitted : so someone’s been assigned to discovering their nuggets, which will be presented to the comittee too.

Does it always work ? Rex confirms what I’ve already been knowing and what I think is key in every collaboration process : ” when the way people are assessed make them feel like competitors rather than colleagues it’s no use asking them helping one another”. Pure logic.

Another point : it seems that Bell also use its collaboration team to help its clients. Welcom in the “extended enterprise” world, when helping others to succeed makes you succesful too.

The whole discussion lasted a few hours and was very rewarding for me. I was so happy to meet one of my “models” in perso. As promised, we keep in touch and try to make “something” together in the coming months.

PS :  this is also the proof of the power of social networks. It was like we’ve known each other for years, which made de discussion open, transparent and easier. What a pity many companies don’t make this kind of relation possible within their walls, they loose so much..

Bell , collaboration , créativité , Innovation , participation , résolution de problèmes social networking, networking, networking-attitude,