My long list of heartfelt thanks begins with the Connected Commons, the consortium I cofounded as a way to help organizations participate in and stay up to date on network research.
The idea for this book goes back to when my colleagues and I were analyzing large networks within Commons member organizations and realized that individual employees and managers desperately needed new collaborative skills to thrive in an environment of ever-escalating work intensity. Once the idea for the book got rolling, member organizations supported the research in two vital ways: first, they provided tremendously valuable resources, allowing me to conduct massive quantitative network analyses and to interview more than five hundred executives in a series of qualitative studies. I am grateful to all those interviewees for letting me into their thoughts and experiences.
Just as important, the Commons organizations constantly challenged my thinking, pushing me to come up with insights that were not only academically interesting but also relevant to their struggling employees and managers. Practically every page of this book can be traced back to a conversation or an “Aha!” moment in a discussion with people connected to the Commons. I am aware that this kind of fruitful, long-term collaboration is exceedingly rare. Access to the Commons’ resources and brain trust is a gift that goes beyond anything I ever anticipated when I began studying networks years ago.
Though there are far too many people in the Commons to call out by name (and I ask everyone’s forgiveness for this), I would like to thank a number of individuals who have formed the inner working group of the Commons over the years. Deb Zehner has provided tireless support to the Commons in many ways, big and small—her work has been central to its success—and to me as a researcher and writer. Her intellectual contributions underpin the chapters on collaborative overload. Similarly, Greg Pryor has been a nonstop source of intellectual contribution, creativity, and energy since day one of the Commons; many of the ideas in this book were shaped through countless weekend calls where we both found space to think and be creative.
Peter Amidon, Michael Arena, Mike Benson, Inga Carboni, Jim Carling, Arun Chidambaram, Sally Colella, Chris Ernst, Rebecca Garau, Peter Gray, Andrew Parker, Jean Singer, and David Sylvester have been similarly important to the evolution of this work through many, many interactions. My thanks also go to Beth Horowitz Steel, a partner at the strategy consulting and research firm Glenbrook Partners, for her insights into the payments industry, which helped in the drafting of chapter 1.
On an institutional level, I am deeply indebted to Babson College and many academic colleagues who see the value in rigorous applied research and have created space and support for this work. A wonderful set of corporate advisers has also provided a vibrant interface between the world of academia and practice and helped me focus my research on what matters most to people. In particular, I am extremely grateful for the partnership with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and the entire team there. Although there are too many to name, I would like to specifically thank Kevin Oakes for seeing the possibility in the partnership and Carrie Bevis, Kevin Osborne, and Erik Samdahl for their ceaseless efforts and their unflagging belief in this work. I would also like to thank the Innovation Resource Center for Human Resources (IRC4HR), and in particular Jodi Starkman and Hal Burlingame, for their belief in and support of early stages of this work.
Many thanks to the editorial team at Harvard Business Review Press. Melinda Merino was an enthusiastic supporter of the ideas, and my editor at the Press, Scott Berinato, did a wonderful job on idea development, editing, title, jacket design, and exhibit design. I am extremely thankful to Andy O’Connell for helping me integrate nearly two decades’ worth of research into a rich and engaging format, and for his kind and tactful persistence in not letting me take the easier routes at various points in this process.
Most of all, I would like to thank my family. My wife, Deb, has been a constant source of inspiration and support throughout this work. Many of the core ideas in the book were developed in discussions with her. Deb, you are the best thing that has ever happened to me! Thanks also go to my son, Connor, and daughter, Rachel—you have kept me humble and grounded through constant chiding and have taught me a tremendous amount about what to value in relationships. If you are representative of the next generation, then we will all be much better off in the future.