I am a passionate advocate for collaboration for four reasons:

1) Collaboration is literally in my genes. I was born the day after my father was sworn in as the youngest governor of the State of West Virginia in 1957 at 34 years old. He was the first Republican elected in the 2:1 Democratic state and won in large part because he had recruited and mobilized 3000 volunteers.

2) In every leadership role I have had, from being a Boy Scout patrol leader at age 12 to leading start ups and larger organizations to consulting, success has required motivating extraordinary teams to communicate and collaborate to create value. The coalition loyalty model is 100% dependent upon collaboration and its power is evidence by the success of the AIR MILES and Nectar programs.

3) In every organization I have worked in, I have seen first-hand the value created by ideas contributed by employees outside of the C-level group and by business partners and customers outside of the company.

4) Even the smallest VC’s and private equity firms mine their networks relentlessly to make sure they have tapped a broad coalition of experts before making investments.

I have never believed that value is maximized by the ideas of and solo decisions made by one smart executive, no matter how deep his or her expertise. I believe in the wisdom of crowds.

Read posts on Collaboration

4 T-Shirts in the Entrepreneur’s Closet

Net: A Year Up student recently asked me if I had any favorite any motivational words or slogans.  I told her about the 4 T-shirts we wore at Sports Loyalty International: Carpe Diem; Never, Ever Quit, No Regrets & Breakthrough.  After speaking with her, I realized they applied to my current role at Year Up […]

An Extraordinary Example of Collaboration Helps GE & Year Up Bridge the Opportunity Divide

I have had the great fortune to be a small part of the extraordinary success of Year Up over the past 16 years.  Year Up is the innovative workforce development organization started in 2001 by Gerald and Kate Chertavian that recruits, trains and places underserved inner city young adults in living wage careers with Fortune […]

A Tribute to the Original Collaboration Evangelist

On the Monday before Thanksgiving [2008] my father, Cecil H. Underwood,  passed away.  The date was November 24th, nineteen days after his 86th birthday and twenty days after Barrack Obama was elected President.   My father was born two days before Election Day in 1922, elected the youngest Governor of West Virginia two days after he […]

Three I Leadership

During the time I was CEO of The Loyalty Group, we grew from three entrepreneurs in a Toronto hotel room to over 600 employees when we sold the business to Alliance Data System (NYSE: ADS) in 1998.  Throughout this period, I thought a lot about both leadership and how to help our people develop the […]

Note to Starbucks CEO: Don’t use technology (or loyalty programs) to demotivate your employees

  Summary: While the Starbucks App is cool and makes buying coffee and food quick and easy without dealing with cash, credit or debit cards, the company appears to have developed the app without fully considering the impact on their employees. The app doesn’t offer users the option to tip baristas when making a purchase.  […]

Is the U.S. coalition loyalty’s Afghanistan? Overcoming the challenges of the U.S. market.

Net: Coalition loyalty programs are among the most successful and fastest growing businesses created over the past 25 years, with flourishing coalition programs currently operating in many countries around the world. The one glaring exception – the U.S. market. Why? It certainly isn’t for lack of trying. Over $1 billion has been lost by companies […]

Collaboration Big Citizenship for Skateboarding in Brookline

Net: Realizing that our son had no dedicated places to skateboard in our town of Brookline, Massachusetts, my wife Patty organized a group of young skate boarders and parents, teachers, nonprofit and other leaders to advocate for the creation of safe places to skate in our community.  Although we have a lot of work to […]

Too little too late? Will Obama’s lack of collaboration kill health care reform?

Net: Obama’s failure to leverage the collaborative efforts of others, consider and include good ideas from his opponents and provide the requisite and timely leadership contributed greatly to congress’ inability to pass heath care reform.  Will the rhetoric and approaches of the last two weeks be enough to revive it or are they too little […]

What Obama can learn from Ross Perot, Cecil Underwood and Coalition Marketing

Two weeks ago while on vacation in Washington, DC, Patty and I found D’Acqua, a great seafood restaurant on yelp and left two happy kids with room service and movies at our hotel.  We were seated a few tables away from David Axelrod, President Obama’s senior political advisor.  I was about to ask our waiter for a […]

What business can learn about leadership and collaboration from Little League Baseball

Although you wouldn’t know it from the 50 degree weather we have had the last three days, it is spring in Boston, which means my 9 year old son is playing baseball again.  Helping coach his little league team reminded me of the leadership model we developed at the Loyalty Group that others have found […]

I lost my Kindle and missed a flight, but still had a good experience as Air Canada and USAir collaborated to provide extraordinary customer service

Net:  On a recent day trip to Toronto which could have been “travel hell,” several USAir and Air Canada employees worked together to get me there and back painlessly.  Air Canada’s Connie Hughes went the extra mile to help me look for a lost Kindle.  These businesses should make it easy to tell their CEO’s […]

Response from Dell

Just noticed this response from Dell manager. Bonus points for finding this new blog and post and for the very candid response on how Dell’s culture is still evolving to embrace customer and customer service collaboration. His comments: Good points on social media in the enterprise as a whole. Thanks for the write-up. While we […]

Are you “waking up dead people” or “killing a culture?”

One of the great byproducts of Web 2.0 is that I often hear from friends and colleagues I have lost touch with.  I am sure you too receive the “I found you on the internet, Facebook, Linked In, …” email from time to time, hopefully from people you actual want to talk to. Last week […]

Facebook, Amazon and the 4R’s of relationship marketing

When 2 former Bain consultants and one recently minted Harvard MBA started AIR MILES Canada, we knew a lot about the economics of customer loyalty and how to quickly understand and model the profit drivers of almost any business. We also knew almost nothing about database marketing other than a few buzzwords one of us […]

Tim Horton’s and Facebook – A Case Study of Lost Opportunity

this post was also posted on Social Sphere Strategies For the past six months, we have been recommending to clients, potential clients and anyone unlucky enough to sit next to one of us at a dinner party that all businesses need to do the following: 1. Get smart – find a way to get senior […]