823: How to Collaborate Smarter with Dr. Heidi Gardner

By December 8, 2022Podcasts



Dr. Heidi Gardner reveals when, why, and how to collaborate optimally.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to stop overcommitment and overcollaboration
  2. How diversity makes for better collaborations
  3. How to overcome the barriers to collaboration 

About Heidi

Heidi K. Gardner, PhD. is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School, and was previously a professor at Harvard Business School and a consultant at McKinsey & Co. Named by Thinkers50 as a Next Generation Business Guru, Dr. Gardner is a sought-after advisor, keynote speaker, and facilitator for organizations across a wide range of industries globally. She is the co-founder of the research and advisory firm Gardner & Co. and the author, alongside Ivan A. Matviak, of Smarter Collaboration.

Resources Mentioned

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Heidi Gardner Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Heidi, welcome to How to be Awesome at Your Job.

Heidi Gardner
Thank you so much.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, I’m so excited to dig into your wisdom when it comes to collaboration and doing it smarter and better. First, I want to hear, you’ve actually got to experience a little bit of an inside view of an interesting slice of history. You worked with the German Ministry of Education during the post-reunification time, helping reform their English curriculum. Any interesting stories from that era?

Heidi Gardner
So, this goes way back. It was the year 1995, I believe, and I was a Fulbright fellow living in a town, a city, called Dassel, Germany, which was basically smack in the center of what had been the DDR. And at that point, it was a pretty rough time to be living in the former East Germany in the sense that a lot of young people had cleared out, they had moved to West Germany in order to seek better economic opportunities, better job prospects.

And I was there working inside the education system, I was teaching in the Gymnasium, which are the high schools, and teaching in some of the technical programs and things, and I was also doing a lot of teacher-training and education curriculum reform. And it was a fascinating time to be there and experience this sort of change.

What I realized at the time is that, because of people’s relative isolation behind the Iron Curtain, there were so many things that they hadn’t been exposed to intellectually, culturally, that I had taken for granted, and I saw that as a real eye-opener for me. I had known that, of course, growing up in the States in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but to experience it firsthand and to be with people, explaining things that were very basic and very run-of-the-mill to me, which were fascinating to individuals who hadn’t experienced them previously.

For example, the idea that everyone in my family had their own car. It was an incredible eye-opener to them that that was actually pretty normal where I came from. And the idea that we would have bananas day in, day out, that was kind of the cheap food, things like that that I learned to appreciate more by living in that kind of environment.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s beautiful. Thank you. Okay. Well, now, let’s hear a little bit about collaboration, and you’ve seen a whole lot of different environments, some in which people are grateful to be in, and some very much not so grateful. Could you share any particularly striking, surprising, counterintuitive discoveries you’ve made about collaboration from your work and research here for so many years?

Heidi Gardner
Absolutely. So, when we’re talking about collaboration, we’re not just talking about run-of-the-mill throw-a-team at every problem. We’re talking about the term we call smarter collaboration, which is starting with the end in mind and being hyper-intentional about how you bring people together, which particular kinds of experts do you need, when do you need to bring different people in so they contribute different perspectives that, collectively, allow the group to be something more innovative, more profitable, more productive, somehow better and tackle more complex issues than any of those people could’ve done on their own.

And what was surprising to me as we’ve been studying this over the last 10 plus years is how many mistakes people can make with something, which is a relatively straightforward process like that. One of the big mistakes that people have fallen into recently, sort of a trap, if you will, is the belief that if collaboration is good, more is better.

And so, what we see is a phenomenon of what we call overcommitment or over-collaboration, that people are joining many, many, many teams, or getting drafted onto different projects, or being asked to join the committee or the taskforce or the initiative, and people are stretched so thin that converse to the intentions, the intentions were, “Hey, let’s make the most of this great employee we have,” but the opposite happens.

That person gets stretched so thin that they end up doing fairly similar work project after project after project, and they don’t have the time to engage deeply, and they don’t have time to stretch their skills, and they don’t have time to really learn and think about how they could improve what they’re doing, and they also typically don’t get great coaching or mentorship along the way. And it’s been really surprising to me how common that problem is overcommitment inside lots of kinds of organizations.

Pete Mockaitis
The problem of overcommitment, I have seen, felt, heard that from my own firsthand experience as well as that of many others I’ve worked with. I’m curious, what is the fundamental root cause of overcommitment? It just seems like it’s almost ubiquitous in terms of professionals have too many emails, too many meetings, too many projects, and it’s just a cluster in a lot of organizations and a lot of professionals’ work lives. So, what’s behind this and how do we fix it?

Heidi Gardner
I see two kinds of root causes and both of them, I should say, stem from really good intentions, and that’s why it’s oftentimes hard to find a solution for it is because people are trying to do the right thing. So, in one scenario, you have the idea that “We’ve got these people who are really great at some specialized area and we want to make the most of them, both because they want to be challenged and because we, as a company, are paying a lot of money for these specialists, and so let’s really make sure we deploy them where they can make the most impact.” That’s the intention.

But, as the person’s reputation grows inside the organization, more and more people want a piece of that thing, so they’re like, “Oh, let me go grab Jane for this project. Let me go grab Joe, this expert,” and Jane and Joe keep getting tapped again and again and again for all of these different pieces of work, and that’s when we run into that problem of overcommitment. But, again, it stems from good intentions, “Let’s make the most of their skills.”

The other scenario is maybe even more pernicious. There is a very strong, credible research-backed reason to believe that when teams comprise people with very different kinds of backgrounds, and life experiences, and cultures, and a whole variety of different categories of diversity that that team has the potential to outperform. Very true.

Pete Mockaitis

Heidi Gardner
But oftentimes what that means is that people who fall into particular categories, if you will, inside organizations that are underrepresented, the demand for them exceeds the supply for those individuals. Think about it in gender terms. This is happening in a lot of corporate boardrooms right now where they say…

Pete Mockaitis
“Hey, you’re a woman. Get on our board, too.”

Heidi Gardner
Yes, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
Just like that. Okay.

Heidi Gardner
Absolutely. And they’re all looking for the same women, “Oh, well, we need a woman who was the CFO of a Fortune 500 company who has this kind of background and this number of years of experience.” And guess what? There aren’t just that many of that particular kind of person. And those individuals end up getting tapped again and again, in this case, for corporate boards or inside organizations. I worked with, for example, a lot of professional service firms. There just aren’t, empirically speaking, that many black women partners in professional service firms, and everyone wants their perspective and their wisdom and their experiences on their teams.

And so, those individuals are just pulled in so many directions, both, in the case of professional services, on client-facing teams but also on internal initiatives, like hiring, and recruiting, and employee engagement, and diversity and inclusion committees, and all of these places. And this is the second way that people get over-tapped and overcommitted.

And in both of those scenarios, managers and leaders with good intentions need to take a step back and look at the system. It’s not a set of individual choices. It’s a whole bunch of choices that systemically, collectively add up to trouble. And what we recommend, you asked for some solutions, first of all, and one probably I’ll keep coming back to in the course of our conversation, is get the data.

There is data that exists somewhere at some level in every company or organization that shows what people are working on and how many different ways and directions that they’re pulled. And there needs to be a person or a department, depending on how big the organization is, that keeps an eye out for this problem of overcommitment.

We studied it in a biotech company, for example. They asked us to come in because they had dropped a major ball, and figured out way too late that some of their best scientists were pulled in a thousand different directions, and when something really went wrong in one project, there was nobody to cover it.

So, this biotech asked us to come in. We took a look at the data and we started by asking them, “How many projects does every scientist like this one work on?” And they said, “Oh, probably two or three,” and they were right to some degree. Most people worked on two or three projects at once. But when we ran the numbers, we found that there were some people working on seven, eight, even eleven projects at once.

And those people who were most over-stretched also happen to be relatively new joiners, and so they didn’t know that that wasn’t normal, a normal workload, and even if they suspected it wasn’t, they were trying to make a good impression in their first months or year at the company, and they didn’t raise their hand and notify anyone that they were just way too overstretched. And so, one of the solutions is collect the data and figure it out, empirically, what’s happening.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, when you said took a look at the data and ran the numbers, when you say collect the data, that’s kind of what I’m curious about is how robust is the tracking and recording of this sort of thing in organizations? In my experience, the answer is not very, so you kind of have to go build that from the ground up, or I have seen some pretty cool enterprise-wide systems that capture that stuff, although sometimes they’re gamed and not being accurately reported.

So, when you talk about the data and the numbers, I just want to get your sense for what are the systems and platforms by which that is readily obtained versus how are you building it from the ground up?

Heidi Gardner
So, the best data, I think, is not reported for this purpose because, you’re right, it’s either garbage data and people don’t get around to doing it so at the end of the month, they kind of make a guess.

Pete Mockaitis
“Oh, my timesheet. Yeah, typical report.”

Heidi Gardner
Yeah, exactly. Or, they game the system for whatever purposes they think works best for them. So, don’t collect data specifically for this purpose, besides it’s just one more admin thing that nobody wants to do. But there is a wealth of data inside many organizations that’s collected for other purposes that can be mined for these sorts of insights.

So, the obvious one is in professional service firms or other kinds of sales or project-based organizations. There are actually ways to track, say, on distribution list, or who’s submitting to certain expense codes, or who’s billing their time to certain files. There are lots of ways that are lots of data sources that are hidden in other kinds of repositories that can be mined for this.

In the biotech company, for example, they have to file a lot of paperwork for grant applications and compliance reasons, and those were actually brilliant project rosters. And so, if you’re creative, you can take a look inside databases that are capturing data for other purposes, and figure out who’s working on how many different things. Again, expense codes are a great one.

Another way to do it though is through a whole variety of platforms now that capture, essentially, network clusters inside firms. And so, you can see you have to make some inferences but you can see that if there are the same eight people emailing each other with similar subject matter, etc., or the same people in certain Teams groups in Microsoft Teams. Or, you can mine calendars for the kinds of meetings that people co-attend. And you use de-identify data so that you’re not actually snooping in what Joe or Jane is specifically doing but you’re looking at patterns. And the patterns are more important than any single individual.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s clever. I like it. Whether it’s from the emails or from the calendars, or from the expense codes, even if no one is judiciously carefully tracking where each hour of their day has gone, you can see what’s that involvement looking like and where and zeroing on some stuff. So, such a fun project on the, I guess, enterprise-wide scale. I’m curious about individuals, if we’re zooming into individuals and teams, what are some of the top do’s and don’ts you recommend they can start right away in terms of getting better collaboration?

Heidi Gardner
So, team leaders are, ultimately, responsible for the health and wellbeing and outputs of the group. And so, it starts with the team leader, first of all, getting some clarity on the degree to which each team member is already committed to other pieces of work. And perhaps even before composing the team, seeking out individuals who are not the usual suspects. Because if I need to think about project X, my mind will jump to certain people who have a reputation for doing that kind of project well or a piece of it.

Well, what if I went to that person, and instead of asking them to join my team, ask them for a recommendation of somebody whose competence they could vouch for who isn’t quite as busy as they are. Now, this hinges on people knowing the skills and quality levels of their colleagues, but especially on their willingness to let somebody else kind of take their “spot.”

And this falls to top leadership to make it a priority that says, “Busier is not better. Doing quality work is better.” But if there’s that kind of culture where people are willing to make referrals, the team leader should be asking not always the usual suspect but perhaps approaching that person with the strong reputation and asking for a referral to somebody else, maybe an up-and-comer, maybe somebody who’s new in the organization, maybe somebody for whatever reason, doesn’t have as widespread of a reputation but is still fully capable of doing the job.

So, get the right people on the team, make sure once you get the team together that you understand not only how many other pieces are they working on, but on a pretty granular level, “Where are we going to have some friction in the calendar?” This sounds like Project Management 101 but it’s astonishing how often this piece gets skipped.

Pete Mockaitis

Heidi Gardner
And once the leaders of the team understand that particular team members are going to be under really severe pressure at certain points, then it’s a question of rerouting the work, of approaching other leaders of teams and asking for some flexibility. It’s not leaving it up to the individual, and I think that’s a big problem in many teams, is that individual members feel like they either just need to suck it up and deal with it, or they’ll be perceived as not capable or strong, or that it’s up to them to kind of work the politics and figure out whose project to prioritize.

And that shouldn’t be the job of those individual team members. That should be something that the leader takes on his or her shoulders. And so, there’s an awareness there, there is a willingness to intervene when necessary, and I think everyone in the organization has to create the context where people feel comfortable raising their hand, and saying, “I’m overstretched. I’m not unwilling to do hard work and lots of work but, right now, the degree to which I’m spread across, taking that hard work and spreading across too many different initiatives is unproductive.” And that’s what we need people to identify.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Well, bringing some of these bits together, could you share with us a fun story or two of a team or organization that was having some disappointing collaboration, and then what they did to change things up and the cool results they gained from doing so?

Heidi Gardner
So, there’s a great experience I had working with the executive team of a huge global electronics manufacturer. And we were asked to work with them because they were really struggling on innovation as a company, and leading innovation as this executive team. So, my team and I worked with 35 top executives. They were the senior president of a certain division, or of a geographic area, or of a product line, or chief-level officers of functions.

And with them, we conducted a psychometric profile. So, we’ve developed this tool, this online tool, which allows people in just 10 minutes or so to complete a bunch of questions, and it provides them with real insight about their natural tendencies. All else equal, what kinds of problems are they drawn to? All else equal, how do they prefer to operate, in a group, or individually? Are they risk-seekers or risk-spotters?

And you might think, “Oh, we all know this,” but actually, we tend to have some blind spots. And so, what we did with this group from the electronics company is we gave them all this profile, this Smart Collaboration Accelerator, and, first, we shared with each individual where they came out. Then what we did is we analyzed the group, all 35 of them, to see what their collective profiles were.

And it turned out that 33 of the 35 were extreme risk-seekers. In other words, they were motivated not to miss a single opportunity, but there were two people on their team who were risk-spotters. They were the kinds of people who weren’t motivated to take opportunities. They were motivated not to fail, not to make mistakes, not to have anything blow up.

And when we revealed with this data, these were mostly kind of engineers and very quantitative people, and we could put the numbers in front of them that said, “Just on that one dimension, here’s what you look like as a group.” There was a bit of kind of nervous laughter and then the, “Ha-ha, do you think that’s why the regulators are crawling all over us and so forth?”

And then one guy kind of raised his hand, we were in a virtual meeting, he raised his hands on Zoom, and he said, “You never effing listen to me.” He’s like, “I’m that risk-spotter, and I keep telling you that we have these problems that are coming up, and nobody ever pays attention.” And his colleagues said…they kind of laughed, and they said, “Yeah, we hate listening to you. You’re such a downer.”

But it revealed two things to them. First, it revealed to them that they were, in fact, incredibly biased on that dimension, and that they were steamrollering the outlier. Rather than making the most of the diversity in that team, these two individuals who could have helped highlight some real problems before they emerged and blew up, they were majority-ruling and, basically, going with what everyone else who were these risk-seekers decided was better for the company.

And through this kind of conversation, it was like, “Well, all right, we need to make the most of the diversity on the team. Even when you don’t like to hear it, they’re probably telling you something really important. And, oh, by the way, if you’re one of those risk-spotters, you probably need to learn to raise issues in ways that those people can understand what you’re talking about, you’re not just shooting down every idea.”

But what was powerful as well is that the group then realized that, because they were so similar on multiple dimensions, there was something really flawed in the organizational processes that meant you kind of had to be one of these cowboys in order to make it onto X Co. And they looked back at all of the succession planning and everyone coming through the ranks, and they figured out that they were more or less weeding out people who didn’t fit the mold at most rungs of the organization.

And it was a very powerful experience for them, again, once they had the data in front of them, they could visually see how skewed they were in certain behavioral terms that it wasn’t productive for them and actually signaled more root-cause problems throughout a lot of their systems and processes.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s powerful, and a pattern, I think, we see quite often. I’m thinking about administering the Myers-Briggs type indicator to many groups, and it’s almost like folks are closeted, it’s like, “Yeah, I’m secretly an introvert, but it doesn’t feel like that really works here, so I put on my extrovert hat around the sales and marketing deal-maker-y people and do that, or I prefer sensing in terms of like getting to the real facts of things as opposed to always imagining these cool possibilities and ideas, and I get called a wet blanket and such.”

Heidi Gardner
Exactly. And what we have worked with groups on, and this can be corporate boards that are a dozen people, it can be functions and departments and business units, what we can do when we help people understand their own natural tendencies is to figure out how to use those as a strength, “How do you bring your voice into the room, especially if you’re the outlier? But, in any case, how do you interact with other people? How do you raise concerns? How do you spot opportunities? How do you engage with people and keep them motivated in ways that are really authentic to you?”

Because I think that is a problem where oftentimes people feel that they have to fit in, they have to mirror somebody else who’s already successful there, and they, of course, are facing a huge burden then because, by not being able to be themselves, it’s really quite painful and draining, but the organization loses out.

There are huge amounts of research showing that when you have people who are genuinely different from one another and can play to their unique strengths, they’re more innovative, they’re more likely to spot both problems and opportunities, they’re better able to customize and tailor solutions to complex problems.

And so, that feeling of needing to fit in, whether it’s how you look and dress and sound, or what kinds of problems you’re attracted to, not being able to foster diversity and true inclusion in terms of bringing those people’s diverse efforts into the room and valuing them, that’s a real process loss for a lot of organizations.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, thank you, well-said. Well, tell me, any key things, Heidi, you want to make sure to mention in terms of top do’s and don’ts for collaboration before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Heidi Gardner
Well, one of the most important things I think when an organization is embarking on this journey of smarter collaboration, they say, “Okay, I get it. We need to really leverage all of the different perspectives we’ve got. We need to break down some of the barriers and the silos inside this organization. How do we get started?”

And we have done research with well over 10,000 senior people across organizations around the planet, and we know there’s five, six, maybe seven common barriers that come up from one place to the next. But what’s unique is…or not unique probably because there’s not an infinite combination. But what’s different for each organization is the prevalence and the importance of those barriers.

And so, for example, one of the barriers is competence trust. If I’m going to bring you into my special cherished project, I have to believe in your competence. I have to think you deliver high-quality, on-time on-budget, that you’re actually really good at what you do, but it’s not enough. Another kind of trust is essential, that’s interpersonal trust. Even if I think you’re a guru but if I think you’re a jerk, I’m still not going to work with you. And so, we know that interpersonal trust, or lack of it, or lack of competence trust, those spring up in most organizations.

But, depending which one really matters, which one is really standing in the way of people working across silos, that is the factor that needs to determine what course of action you take. Because if you’re trying to generate greater competence trust amongst employees, you’re going to go down a path of maybe learning and development, and helping people establish some curiosity in what other people do, and helping people hone their elevator pitch so when they’re talking to somebody, they can describe in compelling ways how they add value to problem-solving or whatever. But if you need to fix interpersonal trust, you need to go down a completely different route.

And so, the point of this is anyone looking to improve smarter collaboration in their organization, they have to start with a database diagnostic. They have to have some objective way of figuring out what stands in between them and really effective collaboration, and then make sure that the solutions they’re developing are tailored to those problems.

Because, all too often, we have worked with leaders who say, “I know exactly what’s wrong here,” and, actually, most leaders are pretty biased in their views of what goes on inside the organization. Nobody refuses to collaborate with the CEO, go figure. So, they don’t see that it’s a major problem, and they don’t understand how their position of authority and a whole lot of other things actually skews their perception of what stands in the way for an average person inside the organization. So, I would say find ways.

We have a toolkit coming out. We codified a methodology to do this after five or six years of doing it ourselves. We’ve now created a toolkit that will be published by Harvard Business Press as companion to our book, where people can use this methodology. We tell people in a very step-by-step kind of way how do you collect the data, how do you analyze it, how do you draw conclusions from it, how do you present it back to executives, and what do you do about it. And I’m hoping that that’s what people use in order to really create and craft a collaborative solution that will drive the kinds of outcomes that we know are advantages of smarter collaborations.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Thank you. Well, now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Heidi Gardner
My favorite quote is the one that we used as the dedication in our new book. We’ve dedicated the book to our two daughters Anya and Zoe, and all of the smarter collaborators of their generation. And the quote we used is, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” And that quote really resonates for us in this rush, rush world wherein sometimes we feel like taking shortcuts, and, “It’s just going to be better if I crack on and do it myself.” And that works some of the time, but if what you really need is a great solution, if you really want to go far, finding ways to engage in smarter collaboration is absolutely essential.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Heidi Gardner
One of my most recent favorite studies was done by Dr. Randall Peterson who’s a professor at London Business School, and he engaged in a very ambitious study of corporate boards.

And so, these individuals, board chairs and independent directors participated in his research and went through this rigorous methodology where they helped him understand in very objective ways what were the dynamics inside the board.

For example, he found that boards that are truly inclusive of women have much better and very different styles of problem-solving and conflict resolution. So, for example, boards that are very male-dominated tend to vote and to cut short discussion and majority rules, and it stamps out dissent and curtails the discussion of unpopular options or opinions. Whereas, boards that are more inclusive of women tend to talk things through in a more substantive and holistic way.

And fascinating discovery is that boards, therefore, with more women on them and where women’s opinions and contributions were more valued, actually were linked to significantly less shareholder dissent. Now, shareholder dissent is something that every corporate board cares about because if their shareholders are creating formal actions saying that they don’t have faith in the way that the board has operated, that’s hugely problematic for governance.

And Dr. Peterson’s research was able to link the way the boards interacted with the gender composition with that very important outcome. And it was a first, not only in the corporate board space but also in helping us understand why it is that gender inclusion is so powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. And how about a favorite book?

Heidi Gardner
I’m going to go way back to a book that was incredibly eye-opening for me. It was called The Russians by Hedrick Smith. And I read this book when I was 15 or 16 years old, so that was in the mid ‘80s, and it was the height of the Cold War. And I had only ever thought about the Russians as a block of people, sort of the Commies, the bad guys. They were featured in all of the movies as the one that Rocky wanted to pummel, or the idea that the US hockey team had to beat the Russians.

And I read this book as part of a summer program that I was about to attend, and it opened my eyes to the idea that the Russians weren’t a monolithic block. They were humans just like all of us Americans. And although it’s incredibly simplistic conclusion, for me, having grown up in Amish country in Pennsylvania, where it was not the most open society or community, and we looked at anybody who was foreigner with a fair degree of suspicion, humanizing the “enemy” was incredibly powerful.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, thank you. Okay. And can you share with us a favorite tool, something you use to be awesome at your job?

Heidi Gardner
Well, I have to go back to the Smart Collaboration Accelerator. It’s not just because we developed it. It’s the psychometric tool that’s science-backed, and it has helped so many organizations and teams and leaders fulfill their potential. It’s incredibly powerful. And we’ve now got 150 people around the world, accredited coaches and professional facilitators and consultants who are trained up in using it. And we are bringing the power of those improved dynamics and self-awareness to create smarter collaborators in a whole range of industries and generations.

Pete Mockaitis
And a favorite habit?

Heidi Gardner
It’s hardly novel but exercise is my favorite habit, particularly walking. And I walk as much as I can, even conduct most of my internal meetings and some of my external ones from my treadmill. There’s a fair amount of good research that suggests that walking helps to stabilize some of the rhythms in the brain.

There’s a great deal of research that shows that walking is related to expansive thinking. And I didn’t know the research when I got so into walking, but started holding walking meetings with colleagues, and with family members, and with a whole variety of people where we would try to hash through different kinds of ideas. And now when I get to a new place, walking is the first thing that I try to do. And if I am stuck on a problem, I get on the treadmill.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And is there a key nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with folks; they quote it back to you often?

Heidi Gardner
One nugget that came out of our research, we did a study of how smarter collaboration benefits individuals. And, initially, it looked as if people who had bigger networks were better off. And as we dug further, we realized that bigger isn’t better, better is better. And we can now quantify what it takes to make a better network in smarter collaboration terms, and it means accessing a variety of different kinds of not only experts but people who think really differently about problems and about solutions.

And it also means keeping ties open, at least to a small degree, so that you don’t need to be constantly in touch with people. They don’t need to be your best friends in order to contribute a brilliant idea, but they do need to be just warm enough that if you ring them up, or drop them an email, or however people communicate, that they’re going to respond and they’re going to help you solve that problem, or they’re going to give you their own nugget that will help you break through.

And that idea that people don’t need big networks, introverts make brilliant high-quality networks, and they don’t need to be the life of the party. So, the idea is better is better when it comes to forming a network, and the diversity is really key there.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. And if folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Heidi Gardner
Our website is GardnerAndCo.co, and we have all of our studies and our books up there. And speaking of books, our new one Smarter Collaboration has just come out, and we encourage people to take a look at that as well.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks looking to be awesome at their jobs?

Heidi Gardner
I want people to take a few minutes every week and just reflect on whether anything has surprised them. This is a question I ask my executive participants in programs at Harvard. I teach at the Business School and the Law School at Harvard, and, usually, by sort of day three or four of a program, I ask “What surprised you about being here on this program?” And often people are stumped but then the ideas start to flow.

And what we realized is asking about surprises forces people to confront what they have taken for granted or what they had expected. And I encourage people to stop every week at some point and just look around and say, “What has surprised me in the last few days?” because that will challenge us to think about what we do take for granted, what we had expected to happen, and it will raise our antenna up to being more curious about the world.

It will prompt us to ask better questions or engage in conversations that might take us to places that we weren’t open to hearing before, or we might tune in to a different kind of podcast, or a different news station, or new source that we would, otherwise. And if we seek out surprises, I think it really opens our mind. That will be the challenge I’d offer up to people.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well, Heidi, this has been a treat. I wish you much luck and fun collaborations.

Heidi Gardner
Thank you so much. It’s been such a pleasure.

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