Smart Collaboration on Facebook Live, Friday Jan 13, 10am EST

Join me for a LIVE session on Facebook to talk about Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos.  I’ll present highlights from the book in an interactive whiteboard session, as well as some more recent findings that didn’t make it into the this first edition.

You’ll have the chance to ask questions and get a response from me during the session.  The broadcast starts at 10am EST on Friday Jan 13th  A recording will be available immediately afterward.

Looking forward to hearing your smart questions about smart collaboration!

Smart Collaboration – Officially Released Worldwide

At long last, Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos was officially released worldwide by Harvard Business Press on January 3rd.  By offering your own insights, anecdotes and critiques, many of you on this Board of Contributors played a special role in the book’s development.  I appreciate your efforts, as I write in the book’s Preface:

“Writing a book about collaboration was, as it turned out, a collaborative endeavor.  As I discussed and tested my ideas over the years, I was astonished by the groundswell of interest those ideas prompted, and by the number of people who asked, “How can I help you?”   Several months into writing the manuscript, I hit on a new idea to tap into this enthusiasm. I created what I called a Board of Contributors, and invited those people who had expressed a passion for the subject of collaboration to periodically review early-stage ideas for this book. I posted rough drafts a few paragraphs at a time, and board members posted their critiques, challenged my ideas (and sometimes each other’s), and provided nitty-gritty examples from their own experiences.  Although I didn’t plan it that way, this book has turned out to be a testament to the power of surfacing and integrating the work of specialized experts.  Their voices show up throughout the book, and I’m grateful for them”

The response so far has been extremely positive, so our collective hard work is making its intended impact.  You’ll see that many top leaders and industry thinkers have endorsed the book, including comments such as these:

  • “Gardner presents a powerful empirical case for smart collaboration in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world. This book is a must read for law firm leaders and partners committed to improving client relationships globally.” Wim Dejonghe, Senior Partner, Allen & Overy
  • “Drawing on deep analysis and case studies across organizations, Gardner has turned a tricky topic – how and why to collaborate – into a set of clear prescriptions.” Scott McDonald, President & CEO, Oliver Wyman Group
  • “A remarkable blend of theory and practice, Gardner’s work on collaboration is at once rigorous and actionable. Backed by extensive empirical research, her book offers crucial guidance for professionals who want to deepen their relationships with clients, improve the service they provide, and increase their profitability – and that should be all professionals.” Professor Richard Susskind, co-author, The Future of Professions

Let me reiterate what I wrote as I concluded the Preface, “The search continues for even more powerful ways to collaborate on tough problems in knowledge-based firms. I invite you to read my current thoughts on the subject, and contribute to the next generation of those ideas.”   Please do stay involved!

Collaboration as “Revenge”

This week I hoped to see messages of bridge-building trump those of divisiveness.  Fearing otherwise, I had threatened to pack my bags if the election fell the other way.

But one of my mentors always told me that “success is the best revenge.”  So rather than run away, I woke up today more motivated than ever to promote collaboration and all the positive benefits associated with a strategy of inclusion.

Helping to make thousands of people more successful by working across traditional dividing lines is my personal way of repudiating the idea that walls are a good solution for overcoming differences.  My research proves the opposite:  people are indeed stronger, more successful, and more resilient when they collaborate. For some of the evidence, see prior posts, this article, or this webinar.  I encourage you to reach out today to strengthen a connection or start to build a team to collectively tackle a tough issue.

Collaboration – in a positive spirit, let’s move forward together.

Gender, Origination & the Pay Gap

Recent reports of the persistent pay gap between men and women law firm partners have prompted debates about the role of origination credits in that inequity.  Thoughtful scholars, law firm leaders and partners, and consultants to the industry are typically careful not to point fingers or suggest that the bias is intentional.  But the statistics can’t help but make a number of people uncomfortable or defensive.  Until now, we have relied mostly on interviews, self-reported surveys, and anecdotal evidence about the root causes of the inequitable distribution of origination credits in so many firms.  Those who are invested in the status quo point to the potential subjectivity in such data sources as a way to discredit the findings.  Even those who are keen to change the system are often at a loss about how to affect change.

My empirical research gives some new insights into the foundation of this problem and some possible ways forward.  I have collected extensive data —timesheets, billing records, origination files, personnel records –across multiple law firms (domestic and global), for timespans ranging up to a decade per firm.  This archival data has the benefit of being objective, in the sense that lawyers recorded it for business purposes rather than as an exercise to understand gender outcomes.  But the investigation about partner-level collaboration consistently highlighted issues related to gender, too.  In my analyses across the disparate law firms, several similar findings have emerged that point to some more general patterns across the sector.

First, and perhaps most surprising, is the way that the origination gap emerges between male versus female partners.  Most people – initially, including me – assumed that both men and women start their partner years with an equally small book of business, but that a discrepancy grows incrementally, over time.   The reality, at least in four different law firms looks quite different:  while it’s true that partners of both genders begin with negligible origination credits, by the end of the third or fourth post-election year a sizable difference has opened up.  The figure below illustrates this pattern.  (Note that the figures look very promising for highly experienced women but we need to interpret the data with caution: there are so few long-tenured women partners that the survivors really skew the average.)

[click this link to see the figure:  gardner_gender-origination_bol_2016-11-02  ]

What accounts for this rapid divergence between men and women’s book of business?  Our statistical analyses show that women tend to grow their book incrementally and often through the (obviously harder) process of developing clients who are brand new to the firm, whereas men tend to “inherit” institutional clients –either as the sole or co-lead partner on major accounts.  The speed of that process suggests that its roots lie in a biased origination system beginning in their associate years.

One of the benefits of statistical analysis is that we can rule out, or control for, many factors that would otherwise explain the disparity.  For example, one lawyer quoted in an online article suggested that women may accumulate fewer origination credits because of their desire to “get home” and work fewer hours.  But our findings show that gender itself is a strong predictor of the origination credit gap, even when controlling for hours worked, the partner’s hourly rate, the average billing rate of her/his team, and the number of clients where each is the lead partner.

[this post is an abridged version of one that appeared yesterday on Bloomberg’s Big Law Business; for the full text, please click here:]

Many of you have asked over the last year or so about the relationship between collaboration and gender.  My first priority in studying collaboration was to establish the “business case” for it, and to build a strong empirical basis for claiming that smart collaboration is an imperative for professional service firms (and knowledge-based organizations more broadly).  I think we are well on our way toward meeting that goal, so now I’m beginning to tackle the gender-related aspects.

I hope you’ll join the dialogue and contribute toward this initiative.  If your firm has data that you think sheds light on the topic, let me know.  Have you piloted different initiatives related to origination credits or other aspects of client service that affect professionals’ ability / willingness to engage in collaborative behaviors, or affect their outcomes when they do?  If you don’t have the data, do you have an opinion?  Share it, please.  Tackling this topic requires the inputs of many different experts, each with their own perspectives and experience.  In short, we need smart collaboration.

Link to “Smart Collaboration” webinar

A couple weeks ago I hosted a live webinar with Harvard Business Review, previewing findings from my forthcoming book.  I was gratified and humbled that more than 2200 people signed up –according to HBR, that’s a near-record for one of their webinars.  We had some great questions, too, and I’m going to address them in some future posts.

In case you missed it, here’s a link to the webinar recording on

Please feel free to share that link on whatever social media you use.  Together, we’re making real progress in our efforts to foster smart collaboration.

And here’s a flier for “Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos,” which is now available for pre-order on Amazon.  gardner_smart-collaboration_flier  Again, I appreciate your efforts in helping to spread the word.  Pretty soon I’ll start posting updates on my plans for book launch events in various US and international cities. I hope you’ll join me at one of them.  In the meantime, if you have links to any journalists who might be interested in an interview or book review, please put me in touch with them, ok?


“Smart Collaboration” Webinar

On Wednesday, October 19 (noon US Eastern) I will present a webinar called Smart Collaboration: Breaking Down Silos.  Here’s the blurb for it:

On October 19, in a live, interactive Harvard Business Review webinar, Gardner will share findings from her research, discuss the obstacles that make collaboration so difficult, and provide insights into the benefits of collaboration. She will also offer powerful prescriptions for how leaders can foster collaboration, leverage technology, move to higher-end and higher-margin work, increase client satisfaction, and attract and retain top-caliber talent.

To discover why and how to truly improve collaboration in your organization—and reap the rewards—join Heidi Gardner and HBR on October 19.

Here is the link to register: Registration is free, and you do not need to be a current HBR subscriber.  Please feel free to share this information with your colleagues who are interested in fostering collaboration in their organizations.  With just over two weeks to go, we have nearly 1000 people signed up already!


Gratis copy of “Smart Collaboration” book

Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos will officially launch on January 3rd, 2017.  I am deeply grateful to all of you who contributed your thoughts, examples, and insights through this forum.

Here’s the blurb from the book jacket:

Professional service firms face a serious challenge. Their clients increasingly need them to solve complex problems—everything from regulatory compliance to cybersecurity, the kinds of problems that only teams of multidisciplinary experts can tackle.

Yet most firms have carved up their highly specialized, professional experts into narrowly defined practice areas, and collaborating across these silos is often messy, risky, and expensive. Unless you know why you’re collaborating and how to do it effectively, it may not be smart at all. That’s especially true for partners who have built their reputations and client rosters independently, not by working with peers.

In Smart Collaboration, Heidi Gardner shows that firms earn higher margins, inspire greater client loyalty, attract and retain the best talent, and gain a competitive edge when specialists collaborate across functional boundaries. Gardner, a former McKinsey consultant and Harvard Business School professor now lecturing at Harvard Law School,  has spent over a decade conducting in-depth studies of numerous global professional service firms. Her research with clients and the empirical results of her studies demonstrate clearly and convincingly that collaboration pays, for both professionals and their firms.

But Gardner also offers powerful prescriptions for how leaders can foster collaboration, move to higher-margin work, increase client satisfaction, improve lateral hiring, decrease enterprise risk, engage workers to contribute their utmost, break down silos, and boost their bottom line.

With case studies and real-world insights, Smart Collaboration delivers an authoritative case for the value of collaboration to today’s professionals, their firms, and their clients and shows you exactly how to achieve it.

The book is already available for pre-order from Amazon ( .  I attach a flier here [gardner_smart-collaboration_flier], and would deeply appreciate if you can start spreading the word.  If anyone is interested in ordering multiple copies, my publisher offers steep discounts for bulk orders (over 10 copies, contact details on flier).

Finally, as promised at the launch of this Idea Space, I’ll be happy to send a gratis copy of the book to anyone who’s contributed to this blog.  If you’re in that category, please email me and my Assistant, Jane Reader (, with your postal address.

Thank you again for your continued support –as I write in opener of Smart Collaboration, “I hope that this book serves as a testament to the power of uncovering and integrating the knowledge of specialized experts,” and you have been a powerful part of that community.  I also acknowledge that much knowledge about collaboration remains to be discovered, and I look forward to our ongoing interactions so that we can learn together.