Author: Leigh Thompson
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
Book Review by: Sonu Chandiram

I bet most of you have not come across the term creative conspiracy before, although I am presuming that many of you, especially those working in a business, have an idea what it means.

The author starts out by asking you to look at your to-do list today and mark off those items that require the cooperation of others to get those tasks accomplished, as well as tick mark separately those things that you can do yourself without anybody’s help.

Make your own short list now if you don’t have one, and you will discover that many tasks, especially the high-impact ones that affect you and your associates pretty much compel you to not only seek their help but also collaborate with them.

I believe collaboration is good because every member of a team can benefit. Leigh Thompson defines collaboration as “the art and science of combining people’s talents, skills and knowledge to achieve a common goal.” Take that one step further and you get creative collaboration, which is “the ability of a team and their leaders to organize, motivate and combine talent to generate new and useful ideas.”

Go a step still further when you are seeking unusual and mutually beneficial solutions to common problems and you head into the territory of creative conspiracy. So when teams “conspire to commit creative and innovative acts” they are “engaged in a creative conspiracy,” writes Thompson.

She elaborates in her Introduction on this key concept – creative conspiracy – which is the main focus of this book: “When collaboration is conscious, planned, and shared with others, excitement builds and a conspiracy develops. The teams that can meet the creative challenges posed to them are the hallmark of the most successful organizations and the subject of this book, which contains state-of-the-art research on collaboration and innovation.” This is not just her opinion; it is based on facts.

Thompson states that in her investigative research on more than a thousand leaders spanning 15 years, she found that 41 percent indicated that “of paramount importance” is leading the creative team.

This book grabs your attention with an eye-opening Introduction, and keeps you reading by providing much valuable information and insight in its eight chapters that demolish many of the myths we harbor on business success, especially on teamwork. The chapters deal with research and facts unearthed on: creativity, collaboration, and conspiracy. It reveals to you the important elements of team dynamics in achieving effective creative collaboration and creative conspiracy.

These are some of the main findings of the author’s research and experience discussed in this unique, useful and unusual book:

  • Left to their own devices, teams are less creative than individuals
  • Providing “rules” to teams actually increases inventiveness
  • Striving for quality results in less creativity than striving for quantity
  • Fluctuating membership enhances a team’s innovation
  • Most leaders cannot articulate the four basic rules of brainstorming

Many real-life examples are provided in this book, and the Notes section, about 25 pages long, provides many references that substantiate the findings of research discussed in it.

I urge readers to look at the reference works on topics that interest them, to do further reading.

This is a great book on teamwork in business and other types of organizations. Leigh Thompson, with her knowledge, teaching and many years of experience, has made a valuable contribution with it to help teams formulate goals and achieve them.

Leigh Thompson is the J. Jay Gerber Professor of Dispute Resolution and Organization at the Kellogg School of Management. She directs the highly successful Kellogg executive course, Leading High Impact Teams, and Group Research Center.

She also co-directs the Negotiation Strategies for Managers course. Thompson has published more than 100 research articles and has authored nine books, including The Truth about Negotiations, Making the Team, and The Mind and Heart of the Negotiator.