Sometimes you can’t make it on your own.  One of my favourite U2 tracks.  Now I can’t stop humming it!

Sometimes it takes an impossible challenge to get people to share and collaborate, as this fun video from Coca Cola shows.  Coke put a double-size vending machine into a site in the Philippines, which yielded two bottles for the price of one.  The only snag was that you had to find a friend to help you reach the coin slot.  So you win together by collaborating, or you both walk away with nothing.

Nicely done, Coca Cola!

Way back in the 90′s in my BP days,  CEO, Lord Browne had decentralised the business and created a “federation of assets” with a clear focus on performance.  This was a step forward, but not quite as big a step as it might have been, because with that focus on performance came a strong sense of independence – even to the point of competition.
Here’s a way to visualise this using Csikszentmihalyi’s flow model.

flow 1

Browne did a lot to support peer structures and networking which was well documented, but his initial response to was to increase the levels of challenge further, whilst keeping the resources constant. This raised the levels of performance required such that working harder was no longer a solution.  Business unit leaders would do anything to hit their performance targets – even collaborate!  And collaborate was exactly what they did: sharing knowledge, resources, people, contracts, and effectively enlarging the area of “flow”.

flow2

This happened because collaboration became the only option, and competition was going to be as fruitful as two people fighting at the foot of a giant coke machine!

All of which leads me to wonder whether an age of austerity isn’t a good thing for knowledge management after all?