Radical Collaboration at Work

The Radical Collaboration approach has been utilized in a wide range of applications in both public and private sectors, ranging from healthcare (Catholic Healthcare West -Sierra Nevada Hospital) heavy industry (Boeing Leadership Center) military (US and Canadian Departments of Defense) higher education (International Management Program/IFL at the Stockholm School of Economics) high tech organizations (NASA Management Education Program) pharmaceuticals (Pfizer) electronics (Sony Ericsson) local public sector organizations (Swedish Work Environment Authority) to international public sector organizations (United Nations Office of Oversight Services).

The program was originally developed as a joint pilot project between the State of California and the Hewlett Foundation in order to teach collaborative skills in very adversarial organizations. Jim Tamm, the co-author of Radical Collaboration, was one of the program designers and original faculty members.

The program has produced strong research based results. One follow up research study tracked participants from nine countries over a six year period. In her report, Professor Mayte Barba, Director of Business Administration at Monterrey Tech University in Cuernavaca Mexico noted the following average gains:

  • A 49.5 percent increase in effectiveness for participants in reducing their own defensiveness in conflict,
  • A 44.8 percent increase in effectiveness at getting their interests met in conflicted situations,
  • A 31.5 percent increase in effectiveness at problem solving, and
  • A 26.4 percent increase in effectiveness at building and maintaining long-term climates of trust.

Another study tracked almost 100 organizations specifically identified as having adversarial climates.  Based upon very accurate records kept by the State of California, researchers documented an average reduction in the rate of conflict of 67% over a three year period.

Research conducted by the Institute of Industrial Relations at the University of California, Berkeley confirmed that transformations from ineffective, adversarial, non-trusting work relationships into effective cooperative and trusting work relationships were the norm rather than the exception. Trust increased, communications improved, and working relationships became more productive. Participants reported that not only did the working environment become more collaborative; the products of their problem solving efforts were much improved.  When surveyed about their subsequent long-term use of workshop skills, participants universally reported high follow up usage.

Collaborative skills are essential for ensuring long-term profitability. In their classic study titled Corporate Culture and Performance, John Kotter and James Heskett reported on the role that a collaborative culture plays on the success or failure of major corporations. The well researched empirical study, covering more than two hundred companies in twenty two industries documented that more collaborative enhancing cultures out performed more adversarial non-enhancing cultures by over 750% in net profit, over 800% in stock price growth, and almost 250% in work force expansion.

The Radical Collaboration program is a highly interactive training focusing on skills that are essential to building and maintaining climates of trust and collaboration within organizations. The skills are immediately useful and quickly implemented.  Because the training is interactive and the tools are very practical the program is ideal for a wide range of settings and educational levels.  It has worked well for groups ranging from custodians to college presidents.

About the Author

Jim Tamm

Jim Tamm is a former judge and an expert in building collaborative workplace environments, with 40 years experience in the field of alliance building and conflict resolution. As a Senior Administrative Law Judge for the State of California for 25 years Jim mediated almost 2,000 employment disputes.