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Smarter Collaboration, With Ivan Matviak

Collaboration could be the key to taking your business to the next level. How? Ivan Matviak of Clearwater Analytics and co-author of the recently published Smarter Collaboration, A New Approach to Breaking Down Barriers and Transforming Work, is here to enlighten us. Ivan co-authored the book with his wife, Harvard Law School professor and Smart Collaboration co-founder, Heidi Gardner. In this episode, Ivan discusses the transformative power of collaboration in a business. He also talks about his career journey, along with important lessons you can implement to enhance collaboration in your company. Tune in to learn how to foster collaboration that can fuel your growth in business and in life!


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Smarter Collaboration, With Ivan Matviak

A New Approach to Breaking Down Barriers and Transforming Work

My guest is Ivan Matviak, with whom I worked at State Street. Ivan is an Executive Vice President with Clearwater Analytics, which provides software services to corporations, insurance companies, and asset managers. Ivan, along with his wife Heidi Gardner, is also the Co-Founder of Smart Collaboration and a co-author of Smarter Collaboration: A New Approach to Breaking Down Barriers and Transforming Work.

Ivan began his career at Procter & Gamble and then spent time at Bain, The Walt Disney Company, Spencer Stuart, Halifax, and State Street. He was also an Executive in Residence for Battery Ventures and an advisor to Along the way, he has worked in Boston, New York, London, Edinburgh, and Johannesburg. Ivan earned his Bachelor’s Degree, a Master of Arts, and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a Board Member for Historic Newton and for Boston Partners in Education. He and his wife live in the Boston area and are the parents of two girls.

Ivan, welcome. Thanks for being on the show.

Thank you. It’s good to be here.

Congrats on publishing your book, Smarter Collaboration. How did that book come about?

It’s a bit of a long story. During the pandemic, Heidi and I had a little more time like a lot of people did. We started writing a couple of articles for HBR and some other publications and they got some pretty good traction. Heidi’s been writing for a long time and I caught the bug and we thought, “What if we did something together?”

Heidi comes at things from the academic world where she’s been researching these topics for many years and me more from the practitioner side. She and I had always talked about, “How do you apply these ideas?” I’ve had the opportunity to put things into practice a little bit. We thought it would be fun to do something together that talked about not just the research side of things, but how you make it work.

What was the process like writing a book with your spouse?

It was great. It was about 2 hours a day, 6 days a week, and it went from 5:30 AM until 7:30 AM. One of the things that’s nice about doing something like writing this book is it gets you out of the day-to-day. You get so busy with work and other things to have your mind somewhere else. We tried a couple of different ways of going about writing it with collaboration in mind. We started out writing it together simultaneously where one of us was at the laptop and we were talking and we would write together, which worked pretty well.

We then thought, “Maybe it would be more efficient if we divided and conquered.” One would take one idea, the other, another idea, and then we’d pass our writing back and forth. That didn’t work nearly as well. It ended up with a lot of rework and a lot of rewriting, so we went back. It was an interesting collaboration insight, where it was much more effective and efficient when we were together, working the ideas in real-time and getting them down on paper, and that was fun.

I have to admit. I can’t imagine sitting side by side with my wife trying to write anything, even trying to write a paragraph-long letter to a lawyer or something like that.

99% of it was fun and there was some creative tension there on occasion too.

How did you and Heidi approach the topic of collaboration in the book?

We tried to make the book very practical. You may be aware that Heidi had written a previous book called Smart Collaboration, which was very much the theory behind collaboration. In the conversations that she used to have with a lot of clients, the clients would come back and say, “I’m buying the idea, and the business case makes sense, but how do I do it?” That’s where I came in and we decided to make this a very practical book on how do you make collaboration work.

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We structured it into a couple of sections. The first section talks about the business case and the talent case. Why should you want to collaborate? The basic premise is this. The challenges that we face are increasingly complex. You might have heard of the term VUCA, Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. If you are a business person and you’re trying to do something transformational in your organization, those are big complex topics. The scope goes well beyond what any individual could handle.

To crack these problems, you need to bring together diverse expertise. On the one hand, you have these complex VUCA-type problems. On the other hand, you have increasing specialization. If you want to be great at your job, for most of us, you tend to go narrower and deeper over your career in order to become an expert in your field, which means cracking those complex problems. You need to bring people with different expertise together and collaborate to bring the best of what everyone can bring to the table. That’s the central idea. We show through multiple business cases and clients real examples of the revenue and profitability upside of better collaboration.

The other angle, which is the second chapter of the book is on the talent case for collaboration in terms of bringing new people into the organization. If you get them to collaborate sooner, particularly experienced talent that you bring into the organization, you have a much higher success rate in terms of them being engaged and staying two years after hire. Collaboration plays an important role in getting people engaged in the organization when they come in from the outside.

It’s also central to how people are operating internally within the organization. People want to feel valued, feel like they can contribute, and bring their skills and expertise to the table. When you’re collaborating effectively, you’re helping to define what expertise is required for a particular problem, and then you’re bringing people together with that expertise and creating an environment where they are comfortable sharing those ideas, even when those ideas conflict a little bit, and often they do. There’s a real talent case in terms of engagement and retention if you’re getting people to collaborate effectively within the organization. That’s the first section of the book.

We then talk about how you understand where your organization is with collaboration. We talk about some diagnostic techniques to understand the bright spots where collaboration is working well already and areas where maybe it’s not working well, how you identify those, and how you identify some of the root causes that block collaboration. There are many reasons why collaboration might not be working well in the organization.

We then talk about some of the use cases. We talk about it in the context of M&A and integration. We talk about it from a sector point of view. We talk about the role of performance management and compensation in driving collaboration, particularly smarter collaboration. The last section talks about some watch-outs. There are some unintended consequences of collaboration. You can collaborate too much and burn people out.

We talk of diversity and inclusion and some of the ways that collaboration can go wrong from a D&I perspective. That’s broadly how the book is structured, and then we conclude with some fascinating stories of where collaboration is going in the future and organizations that are on the cutting edge of collaborating with broad ranges of third parties.

It’s interesting. I think back to the era when you and I both went to business school. They were certainly preaching working in teams, and we had a lot of project-based work. We’ve been churning people out of business schools for a few decades now, probably a bit longer, and trying to get them to work in teams, and yet a lot of companies still struggle with this. You talked about blockers. What are the things that get in the way?

There are a number of things that we saw in the research. One big and somewhat obvious thing is the tone from the top. You need to have your leaders talking about and championing collaboration. You need to see the leadership team in the organization collaborating with each other because those behaviors set the tone for the rest of the organization.

You need to have your leaders talking about and championing collaboration. You need to see the leadership team in the organization actually collaborating with each other because those behaviors set the tone for the rest of the organization. Click To Tweet

I think about the stories that leaders tell. All too often, they’re telling stories about the individual hero who went above and beyond themselves to go and do something. That’s maybe an interesting story, but that reinforces that individual hero persona. What we advocate is telling stories that raise up the teams that are collaborating effectively where they’re bringing different groups of people and diverse ideas together, creating an environment where they can operate effectively, and then creating breakthrough solutions that nobody could do on their own. The one big area is the tone from the top.

We talked a little bit about compensation. Many of the performance management and compensation systems run against collaboration. If you’re rewarding people primarily for individual performance, then that’s what they’re going to focus on. They’re going to focus on executing projects and taking credit in a way that heightens their profile as opposed to the team’s.

We look at ways that you can structure scorecards so that you create long-term goals that are aspirational and transformational for the organization that you want people to work on while still retaining some of that individual accountability, because you can’t lose individual accountability in the process either.

For example, we looked at a client service organization. It was a tech company that had sales teams very focused on individual sales targets. They were out driving sales and focused on hitting their numbers. They then had the implementation teams, the teams that implemented the software at the client, focused on the speed of implementation delivery. They then had the client service teams focused on the speed of resolving client inquiries.

What happened was, if you looked at the life cycle from sales through implementation through service, each of those functions was optimizing its own world. Nobody was thinking about the entire client experience. I’m sure this resonates with you. We helped them rethink their goals and put the client at the center of all of their targets so that the salespeople were thinking not about hitting their sales targets but whether it was something that could be implemented and serviced effectively.

When the implementation teams were implementing, we gave them client satisfaction targets so that they weren’t trying to hit a date but they were making sure that it was going to be effective for the client when they went live. That changed the dynamic and the integration between the teams. All of a sudden, it got the teams talking to each other about how they could communicate better and work together to optimize that whole life cycle. It changed the conversation internally around how to make a happy client at the end and how to get those groups to collaborate effectively across those silos.

Apart from incentives being oriented around silos, are there other things that you found that tend to be barriers for people individually, emotionally or otherwise, to collaborating?

There are two things that come to mind. Let’s start with trust. If you’re going to collaborate with someone, there has to be a degree of trust between the people. We identify two different types of trust that are critical. One is interpersonal trust. I have to believe that you are going to operate in a way that is fair. I have to believe that you’re not going to try to take all the credit if we work together. I have to believe that you’re going to operate in an apolitical way. I [have to] trust the ways that we’re going to collaborate and operate together.

The second piece is more of a capability lens. I have to believe that you are good at what you do if I’m going to collaborate with you. If I’m going to bring you in as an expert on artificial intelligence, I have to believe you’re good at your job. Competence trust and that interpersonal trust are both critical. Without either one of those, it can be a real barrier to collaboration. That’s one big area.

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Ivan Matviak on Smarter Collaboration: Competence trust and interpersonal trust are both critical. Without either one of those, it can be a real barrier to collaboration.


Another area is knowledge and capabilities within the organization. All too often, people don’t even know to whom to look to find the expertise that they need. I may know what you do in your job now, but that doesn’t mean [I know] the breadth of your expertise and all of your background, especially when you get to large organizations.

Some of the organizations we talk to have 50,000, 100,000, or 150,000 people. How do you find the expertise in that organization? That’s a second very common barrier. It’s an understanding of where the expertise is in the organization and the networks in order to tap into and bring those people to bear on a particular project.

Expertise is one of those areas. Some companies have tried to codify it in a database that people can search for. Did you encounter any companies that have done a good job with that? I’ve seen companies try that I’ve worked for. I don’t know that it had any needle-moving effect.

I can remember way back when I was at Bain, we tried to have a knowledge management system like that. It’s a yes and no. We didn’t see any successful examples of trying to codify the institutional knowledge of the organization. It moves too quickly. There’s too much of it. It’s a lot of effort to try to codify that.

We did see increasing success in two directions around identifying where the expertise lies. We saw some organizations that were simply creating simple profiles for people that said, “I’m good at these four things. I’m very interested in these 3 or 4 things,” and it was very searchable. You could see who believes that they are a subject matter expert in supply chain management, artificial intelligence, or whatever that may be. That was relatively simple.

Increasingly, we’re seeing the use of some of the newer facilities, whether it’s Microsoft Teams or other platforms like that, where you can create communities of interest. Not trying to codify the information, but trying to create ways to more quickly access that information through communities of interest with some of the more modern chat and communication functions can be powerful.

You’re creating the forum and letting people find their way to it as opposed to trying to overly handhold them to it.

When it’s done well, those forums and communities can be self-generating. People create communities of interest and they join and leave, so you find out. One of the things that it does is it very rapidly magnifies your network because then it’s not just who do I know, but going to this community and saying, “Here’s what I’m looking for.” That rapidly opens up the world to be able to find that expertise.

People talk a lot about your second-order connections being a real source of untapped potential because odds are a lot of your first-order connections do work similar to what you do. When you factor in their connections, you get friends, family, and people they’ve worked with before, so you get a much higher degree of variability and often can find an order of magnitude more breadth and expertise in that second order than what you get in the first one. A lot of people under-appreciate going one level out, having a friend introduce them to somebody that they think they might benefit from getting to know. There’s a lot there.

There’s no doubt. When I have friends and colleagues who are thinking about their job search, for example, those formal networks are incredibly powerful in the job search process. In the book, we have a small little piece of analysis that is interesting. It’s just an example. It’s a network map of two people that we call twins. They have the same graduation year, degree, company, and division within a professional service firm, so very similar profiles. We look at the network maps of the two. One has a relatively small network. The other one has a massive network.

The larger network is not in terms of the number of people, but it’s also the number of different divisions within the organization that they’re collaborating with. To your point, they’re more broadly networked into the organization, but it also shows that the interconnections withiin that individual’s network are deeper. It’s not just bilateral conversations. Those people are talking with each other as well. When you look at the results driven by those two twins as we described them, it’s dramatic. The twin with that deeper network has four times higher output than the one with the smaller network.

You brought up this point, and I’ve been thinking about it as I’ve been working my way through the book about tapping into Teams data to look at who chats with whom, how often they chat with whom, and then potentially getting into doing some AI-based analysis of the substance of those chats to figure out who’s asking for help and who’s giving help.

There’s an element that probably feels “Big Brother-y”. At the same time, there’s a lot to be learned from that in terms of where are those bright spots [of collaboration] as you called them in the book, that you want to tap into more strategically because they’re there, they’re bought in, and they’re active, so they’re a willing audience.

I agree. You have to be thoughtful about how far you want to take some of that analysis, particularly when you start to think about the identification of individual names against those. There’s a very powerful analysis that you can do on an anonymized basis that’s looks at teams and cohorts. You don’t necessarily need to know who’s on the team in order to identify whether a particular group is or isn’t collaborating broadly.

Also, whether there are individuals within a team or maybe even leaders of teams who have smaller networks who are communicating in a narrower way to try to identify where there are opportunities to help people to develop their networks and understand the value of collaboration. The tools that you have now around some of that communication and network analysis are powerful.

The other thing that you may have picked up in the book is that we talk about over-commitment. Another big barrier to collaboration is when people get overcommitted. While collaboration fundamentally is good, that doesn’t mean more collaboration is better. You can have too much collaboration. You can have people pulled onto too many teams. You can have people stretched too thin and have them burning out.

At a certain point, having more people on a project becomes somewhat dysfunctional. It becomes too large for a group. You can have too much collaboration or overcommitment within the organization. Things like timesheet records or some of those Teams or chat analyses can also be very helpful to figure out who’s overcommitted and who’s at risk of burning out.

You can actually have too much collaboration or over-commitment within the organization. Click To Tweet

There are ways to look at that, again being sensitive to individual data and privacy and all of that. You can certainly see who’s on late at night and whose active day is longer than X hours.

Who’s working 100-hour weeks? Who’s on too many projects? There’s an interesting graph in the book where we looked at a biotech organization and look at the number of projects that people were on. There was this very long tail where a large number of people were on 7, 8, 9, up to 15 projects. One of the things that we noticed was that, not infrequently, it was women and people of color who were spread across multiple projects.

What was happening was that organizations for all the right reasons had D&I initiatives where they wanted to have more women and people of color on projects. For example, there had to be women on every new client deal team if they’re in a sales process. The intention was great, the problem was that if you don’t manage it very carefully, you can end up stretching people too thin. Then what happens?

People are stretched too thin and can’t have as much impact as they would like to have because they’re working on too many projects. If they don’t have as much impact, they may not get rated performance-wise as well at the end of the year, which limits their career progression opportunities. Combine that with getting burnt out, and all of a sudden, you start to see higher turnover amongst the very groups that you are trying to embrace and help develop. That’s why we call it Smarter Collaboration. It’s not just about collaboration. It’s about doing it smartly and intentionally.

In the middle part of the book, you talk about seven dimensions that define how people approach collaboration. Maybe this is a little bit of a test, but can you describe the framework and maybe give a few examples? I won’t make you quote all seven of them.

I’ll start with the central idea. People kept asking us, “Should I recruit people who are good collaborators?” We did a lot of analysis to try to figure out if there is a personality type that is a good collaborator. Our conclusion was no. Excellent collaboration or smarter collaboration is about understanding your collaborative tendencies and using them effectively in a particular context.

We identified seven dimensions and each dimension has two poles. Let’s take risk. You can be a risk spotter or a risk seeker. A risk spotter is someone who tends to identify the risks in a particular issue that they may be looking at. They may be very good at assessing the downside of what’s happening and thinking about how do you mitigate the downside. It can be productive to be a risk spotter.

Other people are more risk seekers. They embrace the idea of risk. They like putting themselves out there, taking chances, and thinking about, “This might have a 10% chance of success, but if we win, it’s a massive opportunity.” Oftentimes, you find a lot of energy around those people who are pushing the organization to try new things and experiment. If you have only one or the other, that may not be very healthy for an organization.

If you want to have an effective team collaborating well and come up with an innovative breakthrough answer that you can implement, it can be helpful to have both. The risk seeker is coming up with these great ideas and pushing the boundaries, and the risk spotter is saying, “Great idea. Now, how do we manage the risks that we maximize our probability of success?”

A similar example you talked about is concrete versus complex thinker.

It’s similar in some ways. A complex thinker loves ambiguous problems. They love thinking outside the box about, “Where’s the future going?” A concrete thinker is very practical. They’re thinking about, “How do I implement something?” if they’re on a project where they’re trying to innovate. Real innovation requires both creativity and execution because if you don’t bring the idea to market and execute it, it’s not very innovative. It doesn’t do anybody any good. You need both those skill sets.

You need complex thinkers who know how to take these ambiguous problems, structure and define them, and think about how to frame a particular challenge. You need concrete thinkers who are saying, “We’ve got a deadline that we’ve got to hit and a process that we need to go through if we’re going to execute on this. We need to think about the resources that we need to bring to bear.”

Again, having that complex and concrete skill set within your teams is incredibly powerful. If your team is dominated by one or the other, your chances of success are lower. If you’re all complex thinkers, you may never get to practical things like, “How do I implement this thing?” If you’re all concrete thinkers, you may not be thinking out of the box and coming up with breakthrough ideas.

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Ivan Matviak on Smarter Collaboration: Having that complex and concrete skill set within your teams is incredibly powerful. If your team is dominated by one or the other, your chances of success are lower.


You argue basically for seeking a diverse population of people across these seven dimensions, whether you’re seeking internally or seeking people externally and trying to fill in for some of the gaps you have. You talked about hiring. Other than trying to get that diversity of collaboration types in terms of people’s own styles, what else do you and Heidi recommend in terms of how people should think about bringing collaboration into the interview process when they’re looking at hiring somebody?

First of all, we wouldn’t advocate using the tool that we developed, that psychometric tool, in the hiring process. It’s not the appropriate application of it, but we think a case interview method can be powerful. Get people talking about their views on collaboration, where they’ve collaborated effectively and demonstrated their ability to bring their unique strengths to bear.

Also, it’s a particular challenge we often see for people to collaborate with peers, and people of equal status and power. It’s not that hard to collaborate with your direct reports. They report to you and you can manage the dynamic there. It’s much harder to collaborate with a group of peers, especially if you’re following the tenets of smarter collaboration and you’re trying to bring people with diverse views together.

When you bring those diverse views together, you’re going to create some conflict and differing opinions. It’s a real skill to be able to manage a group of equally powerful people who come at something with different perspectives and views and to be able to get them to collaborate effectively. Through that interview process, you can have people talk about their experiences and concrete examples of how they’ve been able to collaborate effectively.

We’ve talked a little bit about collaboration within a company. You also cover collaboration in the context of M&A. With all the discussion about open architecture ecosystems, all that network economy type of thing, what should companies be doing to think about expanding the realm of collaboration outside their own four walls?

It’s such an important topic. I’m glad you brought it up. If we go back to that earlier definition of smarter collaboration, I talked about individuals becoming increasingly specialized in order to become world-class at what they do, not only on the individual level but on the organizational level as well. Organizations can’t be great at everything or the whole value chain of what a customer may need.

Increasingly, for organizations to be successful, they need to focus. They need to decide where their real differentiation is going to be and invest in that and then work with partners who can bring those other capabilities to bear that are going to get what the end customer needs. We certainly see this all the time in my world of software.

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Ivan Matviak on Smarter Collaboration: Organizations can’t be great at everything, and so for them to be successful, they need to decide where their real differentiation is going to be, invest in that, and then work with partners who can bring those other capabilities that are going to get the end customer exactly what they need.


What we advocate is having a very structured approach to how you partner with third parties. Again, starting at the top to understand what’s the role of the partnership and creating a sense of the importance of having a partner. Lots of organizations can be very defensive about partnerships – the “not invented here” attitude – or they may have a technology development organization that believes they can build everything themselves, or you may even be partnering with people who in some ways have been competitors in the past. Having that tone from the top that says these partnerships are important is critical.

When you go into the conversations, you need to get aligned with the partner on expectations. Are both parties clear about what you’re trying to get out of the partnership? What you’re going to put into it and get out of it? Also, think about the governance of the relationship. How do you make sure that you have clear goals that are measuring your success and driving the partnership forward towards your collective ends?

Our fourth idea is periodically revealing. Sometimes these partnerships last years. You may have leadership changes or people changes on the teams. It’s very useful to go back and kick these things off again periodically or even assess, “Is it still worth doing?” If it is, maybe reviving it and giving it new energy, or if it isn’t, saying, “Okay. We wind this thing down.”

You talk about AstraZeneca as one of your examples in the book. I was struck in reading what the individual from AstraZeneca had to say about how they almost interview companies in how they’re thinking about the partnership. It’s incredibly thorough and deliberate. It’s very much on one end of the spectrum in terms of the depth of thinking that they put into, “Is this other player up for the kind of partnership that we need to be successful?” Probably, that gets glossed over a lot.

That and the cultural side of things. Is there a cultural fit between the organizations? I thought AstraZeneca was a great case study on how to do this well. In the pharma and biotech industry, these types of partnerships are an essential part of the business model. They spend a lot of time on it and they’re pretty mature in the processes around it. There are a lot of good learnings for other organizations who oftentimes we found go into these things in a more casual way without doing the hard diligence to make sure that it’s going to be successful.

It’s very true. You talk in the latter part of the book about some of the issues that can arise when you try to foster collaboration. Can you give maybe a quick summary or a few examples of those?

We talked about a couple of them [earlier in the discussion]. We talked about some of the challenges around diversity and inclusion. One of the big watch outs there is making sure that you are using collaboration in an effective way to achieve your D&I goals and ends, but also not going to the extreme, which can have the negative impacts that we talked about of overcommitting people and burning people out.

We think collaboration can be an incredibly powerful means to help achieve your diversity and inclusion goals, but you have to be very thoughtful about how you apply it. It’s worth maybe as a tangent there. This is an important theme. We think very much of collaboration as a means, not an end. You are collaborating for a reason to achieve some goal in your organization. You’re not trying to get people to collaborate because it’s nice, or feels good, warm, and fuzzy. That’s one big watch out.

Collaboration can be an incredibly powerful means to help achieve your diversity and inclusion goals, but you have to be very thoughtful about how you apply it. Click To Tweet

We talked about over-commitment, which is a real challenge. You have to be very thoughtful about making sure that you are very deliberate about the expertise that is needed to tackle a particular problem, and then constructing a diverse team and not just diverse in the common sense of gender or race, but diverse in background, experiences, and thinking, which is critical for real breakthrough thinking. Make sure that you are also managing that process over time because projects evolve and change, you may need to revisit who’s on the team and what types of expertise you need. You need to manage the lifecycle.

The other area that we talk about is performance pressure. In times of crisis, people tend to revert to their baseline in two ways. They tend to want to go it alone and revert back to things that have worked for them in the past. Let’s touch on the first piece of “go it alone.” Collaboration takes effort. Everything that we’re talking about takes time. You have to identify the people and the expertise that you need to bring together. You need to work hard to get the dynamic working amongst the team. It’s a lot of effort.

Oftentimes, particularly in times of pressure, people will say, “It’s better if I do it myself. I’m just going to do it.” You’re probably not going to get as good an answer if you go it alone as you would if you had brought people together, collaborated, and had all those ideas coming to the table. That’s the first piece. The second piece is around risk aversion.

In times of crisis, people tend to revert back to things that [have] worked in the past. Just because something worked in the past doesn’t mean it’s going to work in this new situation in the future. There’s a risk if you don’t have a diverse group of people working and thinking about a problem that you get either a repeat of what worked in the past, which may or may not be applicable in the future or you get a bit of group think, “We did this before.” You end up getting the same group of people together who worked on the problem in the past and you end up with the same answer in the future. You have to think particularly under pressure or in times of crisis that you are ensuring that people are collaborating effectively.

You started writing this book during the pandemic as you mentioned. Everybody was working virtually for those couple of years, at least in the office-based part of the workforce. From the research that you’ve gathered, how did that affect collaboration positively and negatively?

It was a huge change for organizations. The first article that Heidi and I wrote for Harvard Business Review came out the day that Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple sent all of their people home during the pandemic and started the wave of remote work. That article talked about seven strategies for collaborating in a remote environment.

It had enormous changes in two ways. One is in the way people interoperate. Existing teams all of a sudden are remote so some of the serendipity that happens when people are engaging in the hallways and coming across each other or working informally is different in a remote environment than when everybody’s walking around the office together. It requires some deliberate effort to create opportunities for people to engage in informal ways if you’re working fully remotely.

Maybe one option is to bring people together periodically because many organizations aren’t fully remote at this stage. You have to think about how you’re getting people interacting and creating opportunities for people who don’t necessarily have meetings with each other, where you’re coming together on video to interact, and how you are tapping into that diverse community in these conversations so you’re mixing up the groups and bringing new ideas together. That’s one challenge in remote work around the existing teams.

Another big challenge is around integrating your new people. In any company that I ever started with, you’re in the office on day one, and you’re automatically meeting people, walking in the halls, and doing training together. It’s a very engaging personal environment. Oftentimes [now] people are just changing laptops when they change their job. They don’t have to move anywhere.

What the research shows is that if people are not integrated and collaborating effectively in the first six months, there’s a dramatic drop off in the likelihood that they will be in the organization two years later. Another thing to think about is how you are getting your new people to collaborate right out of the gate or as soon as they come in, building their networks, finding their mentors, and collaborating to learn how the organization works right away. If that’s not happening in the first six months, there’s a greater probability they won’t be there in two years.

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Ivan Matviak on Smarter Collaboration: If people are not integrated and collaborating effectively in the first six months, there’s a dramatic drop off in the likelihood that they will be in the organization two years later.


That was another point that struck me, the importance of those early days toward solidifying whether somebody’s going to be there for the longer term.

Gallup does this amazing poll every year and they have millions of respondents. One of the key questions that they tease out in the polls is, “Do people feel like they have the ability to do their best at work every day?” You’ve probably seen this. When the answer to that is a yes, there’s a whole string of beneficial metrics for the organization around revenue, profit, talent retention, and other things, but what we believe is critical to helping people answer that question, “I can do what I do best every day,” is through collaboration. It’s through collaboration that they can bring their unique expertise and have an impact.

The last part of the book talks about the world ahead, so what does the future hold in collaboration?

One of my favorite case studies in the book is about an organization called OceanX, founded by Ray and Mark Dalio. They’re doing some incredible things around ocean research. They’ve built a ship with incredible technology. They’re partnering with world-class organizations like the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Their goal is not just to do world-class scientific research, which they’re doing, and they’ve made some amazing discoveries already, but their goal is to try to bring that to the world and get people excited, engaged, and understanding the importance of the oceans.

To do that, they’re working with the likes of James Cameron to film a lot of what they’re doing. They were working with Leonard DiCaprio as well. To then get the ideas out to children, they developed a collaboration with Crayola so that kids can interact and engage and draw some of the ideas here. I thought that was a cool example of bringing together technology. I forgot to mention the partnership with Microsoft around some of the holographic imaging technology they use so that the researchers can collaborate in real-time, plus the entertainment community to try to bring the messages out to the broader world.

What we’re seeing is people pushing the boundaries of the types of organizations they’re collaborating with. They’re going to solve these big complex problems, whether it’s space exploration, climate change, or saving the oceans. You need a whole host of organizations collaborating effectively to solve those problems.

If you're gonna solve these really big, complex problems, whether it's space exploration, climate change, or saving the oceans, you need a whole host of organizations collaborating effectively to solve those problems. Click To Tweet

We then see an increasing role of technology in helping with the communication and analysis of what’s happening. It’s exciting. We have a couple of other little case studies around the use of artificial intelligence, for example, in ways that are helping drive creativity and communication amongst organizations. The future’s pretty bright, we think, in the way groups start to collaborate to tackle some of these big important challenges.

The big important challenges that require more than casual collaboration. Crowdsourcing is a great example of something that wasn’t feasible until the social network world evolved.

There are a couple of examples in the book where they’re solving these complicated analytical problems through crowdsourcing. You get people who have a passion for this stuff. It could be a guy sitting in Poland who was writing and cracking these problems that were never solved before. What’s interesting about some of those examples in the book is that the profile of the people who are solving these problems is very unexpected.

They’re not the people that probably would’ve gotten hired by the company to work on the problem. They’re totally the left field from the traditional recruiting profile, and yet they’re the ones who are solving the problem. That’s amazing and it goes to the wisdom of the crowd, as you said, and bringing diverse experiences together to solve some of these problems.

Given that this is a career-focused show, and we’ve focused up until now on collaboration, how do you think collaboration can help somebody in their own career, either within their job or externally networking when they’re between jobs? Any thoughts on that?

First, as we say right out in the first two chapters of the book, we believe collaboration is fundamental for business success and talent. I can go back to those two twins. The twin who had the bigger network was far more effective and successful than the one who had the smaller network. We fundamentally believe that developing those networks and understanding your collaborative tendencies, back to those seven dimensions of collaboration, and thinking about how to use them effectively, is critical. It is likely to lead to more personal and business success. That’s the first thing.

The second thing, that we touched on a little bit, is the idea of networking for your own career development. The 2nd and 3rd order connections can be massively helpful as you’re thinking about, “What’s next in my life?” and creating that serendipity of finding new opportunities out there. Collaborating on the job day-to-day is critical for your personal success and then those networks can be helpful for identifying long-term things. I think about my own career. I’ve had the pleasure of working at places as different as Procter & Gamble, Bain and Company, and The Walt Disney Company. All of those moves came from personal networks and a lot of serendipity, with exception of one, which was a recruiter.

I talk to people all the time about networking when they call for job search advice. You’ve got to work the network and you’ve got to work your network’s network. It’s a game where you just need one hit out of all of the tries. Especially as you get more senior, you got to go and go and keep having those conversations until you find the thing that’s going to work.

The statistics are pretty clear, even at the executive level. Most people don’t find their jobs through a headhunter. They find it through their network or by applying on a job board. In many organizations that I’ve worked in, those jobs are filled before they hit the job board.

It’s very true. What’s next for you? What’s next for you with the book and the broader Smart Collaboration initiative, the company you started with Heidi and all of that?

Heidi spends most of her time on the company, but the behavioral assessment tools are getting a lot of traction and are being used by a lot of coaches and organizations for developing collaboration in their own organizations. We are launching a toolkit through Harvard Business Review Press. For folks that buy the book, there will be a toolkit available to help people implement some of these ideas and do some of the diagnostics that we talked about. Right now, we’re having a lot of fun having conversations like this, talking about the ideas and getting the message out there.

I think back to when you and I met for a drink a few years ago, not long after you left [State Street]. You were talking about doing some work with Heidi, some writing, and creating some intellectual property. It’s very much played out that way.

It’s been great. I’ve been so fortunate to do some fun things in life. As I said, I’m having a great time at Clearwater Analytics, the company I work at now, [which] has been wonderful. To do this on the side and stretch my brain in some other directions is a lot of fun.

Last question, what career advice would you give to our readers?

People underestimate the value of in-person interactions. Particularly, young folks who are coming into the workforce or maybe have been in for a couple of years seem to believe that they can have a successful career [being] fully remote. I don’t believe it. The value of those personal interactions and the serendipity of being in the office can’t be matched.

What I tell people, particularly the younger folks that I hire, is that I love working remotely. I’m working remotely today, and it can be very productive, but if that’s the only way you’re working, you are going to put yourself at a disadvantage relative to the people who are coming into the office at least occasionally and interacting.

It’s interesting. I don’t find it so much with the young people in our company and that I interact with more generally. It feels like the people who are 10 or 15 years into their career who already have the relationships, who were there before the pandemic, or who have childcare situations that they’re dealing with, are the ones who are pushing more for being fully remote than the kids who are straight out of college or university. They like the social aspect of it and tend to be on most days.

I can see why that would be the case. For folks who have maybe been in an organization for a while and have those established networks, maybe it’s a little bit easier in the short term, but as organizations change and turnover, those networks are going to decay. Even if you’re an experienced person, if you’re coming into a new organization, I don’t know how you would build those networks fully remotely.

Let’s go back to what you said about the first six months being important. It takes longer. It’s harder and it will be narrower. To me, it takes a lot more work to get people over that hump of feeling plugged into the organization when they’ve only ever worked remotely. We’ll see how it plays out. None of us knows for sure. That’s the craziness of it.

It’s evolving every day.

It is. Thanks for doing this. I appreciate it. It’s been good to catch up. About the book, I’ll confess, I’m not quite done yet. I still have a little bit left.

There’s an audio version as well for folks who don’t want to read the whole book.

Fair enough. I tend to do my reading on the train. I get 15 to 20 minutes each way, which is enough. It allows me to get through books at a decent clip.

That’s quality time. I like that as well.

Ivan, thanks, and good luck with everything.

Thanks. It was great to talk to you.

You too.

I’d like to thank Ivan for joining me and doing a deep dive into the topic of collaboration and covering a bit of his own career journey. If you’re ready to take control of your career, visit If you’d like more regular career insights, you can become a PathWise member. Again, it’s free. You can also sign up on the website for the PathWise newsletter and follow PathWise on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Thanks. Have a great day.


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About Ivan Matviak

CSCL 41 | CollaborationIvan Matviak is an Executive Vice President with Clearwater Analytics, which provides software services to corporations, insurance companies, and asset managers. Ivan, along with his wife Heidi Gardner, is the Co-Founder of Smart Collaboration and a co-author of the recently published Smarter Collaboration, A New Approach to Breaking Down Barriers and Transforming Work.

Ivan began his career at Procter & Gamble. He then spent time at Bain, The Walt Disney Company, Spencer Stuart, Halifax, and State Street. He also was an Executive in Residence for Battery Ventures and an Advisor to Along the way, he has worked in Boston, New York, London, Edinburgh, and Johannesburg.

Ivan earned his Bachelors’ Degree, a Master of Arts, and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a Board Member for Historic Newton and for Boston Partners in Education. He and his wife live in the Boston area and are the parents of two girls.


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