Abraham Lincoln: Collaborator-in-Chief

(Fine, the title isn’t as catchy as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but this post is still a thrilling tale of courage.)

We just celebrated Presidents’ Day and now we’re on the cusp of what, here in L.A., is one of the year’s most hallowed holidays: the Academy Awards. Some spoilsports point out that technically Presidents’ Day isn’t a day for Honest Abe, but there’s almost certainly no way to keep him off the guest list for Oscar (free tip for your Oscars pool: pick Daniel Day-Lewis). The “cult of leadership” surrounding the 16th president will continue to add even more members.

“What made Lincoln great?” is a question that takes a book (or shelf of books) to answer. One of the clear underlying themes, though, is that Lincoln believed – really, deeply, passionately believed – in collaboration. This is a blog about the power of collaboration, so, yes, we tend to look at things through collaboration-tinted glasses, but this is an easy case to make.

Make your vision known

If Lincoln lived today, he… well, honestly, who knows? But it seems likely that he would embrace technology as a means of broadcasting his administration’s agenda, given his diligence in pressing his message to anyone who cared to listen. In upcoming case studies, we’ll be spotlighting companies that are using Central Desktop to clear up email clutter and disseminate information from HQ to the masses. If you’re tasked with keeping a large number of people “on message” and making sure they’re all using current versions of company documents and creative assets, collaboration tools can save a lot of headaches.

Keep an ear to the ground

Lincoln didn’t keep himself in a bubble or safely surrounded by yes-men. A leader can learn a lot from listening. Collaboration encourages the leveling of some of the old-fashioned walls that kept knowledge and information isolated in certain pockets. That doesn’t mean that your interns are going to be carrying around your financials on their iPhones, but it does mean that if you’re going to identify collaboration as a real cornerstone of your company culture and not just an empty buzzword, your execs need to lead by example.

What Abraham Lincoln can teach you about user adoption

First of all, hello and welcome to everyone who Googled “what Abraham Lincoln can teach you about user adoption.” Your own great intentions won’t go very far if you don’t have other collaborators on board. If you find yourself struggling to spread excitement about your collaboration solution (or, really, with any initiative), you’d be wise to heed one of Lincoln’s favorite instructions: “In order to win a man to your cause, you must first reach his heart, the great high road to his reason.” Forcing adoption or bribing your way to your goal with Starbucks gift cards may “work,” technically, but it’s not likely to work as well as building a real case, tailored to the needs of your future collaborators. Identify with their frustrations and stress the benefits of your new way of doing things.

Embrace differing perspectives

Lincoln assembled his famous team of rivals to challenge his ideas and present different perspectives. Hopefully you don’t feel like you have too many rivals, per se, within your own company, but some of the same benefits can stem from cross-departmental collaboration.

Win the war, not the battle

Lincoln understood that accomplishing things tomorrow sometimes requires working with people who fiercely opposed you today. Don’t burn a bridge over negative feedback, even if it’s not completely constructive.

Adam McKibbin
Post by Adam McKibbin

Adam McKibbin is the content marketing manager for iMeet Central. His writing has been featured in Adweek, the Chicago Tribune and The Nation, and he’s produced content for some of the leading tech brands on the Fortune 500.

4 Responses to Abraham Lincoln: Collaborator-in-Chief

  1. Adam:

    I have to say this is THE BEST CD blog to date and one of the best on collaboration and technology adoption in general. Not only did you call the Oscar win for Lewis, but, at least IMHO, you really have used this historic figure well to illustrate the power of collaboration, and the best process to fuel and nurture it. Of course Lincoln would adopt technology like CD if he were alive today. look at how he embraced the telegraph. He thrived on communication, collaboration and alignment. But more importantly his approach to alignment is the powerful message here. I love how you brought his advice forward: ” Forcing adoption or bribing your way to your goal with Starbucks gift cards may “work,” technically, but it’s not likely to work as well as building a real case, tailored to the needs of your future collaborators. Identify with their frustrations and stress the benefits of your new way of doing things.” I TOTALLY agree.In a few short paragraphs I believe you captured what I tried to illustrate at my keynote at this year’s Collabosphere.

  2. Adam McKibbin Adam McKibbin

    Thanks very much. I appreciate the comments. History can certainly be a great teacher – and it’s fun to try to approach it from a different angle. I did something similar with Vince Lombardi around the time of the Super Bowl and it sort of inspired this post.

    And, Carl, I don’t want to brag (OK, I kind of want to brag), but I’m the reigning champion of my Oscar pool.

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