This is it!  The final habit!  Although I will also post an at-a-glance summary of all 8 collaborative habits within the next month. This is the collaborative habit that ensures continuous mindful monitoring of the success of the collaborative experience; it relies on regular self-assessment by each team member featuring the Activate Collaboration Self Assessment Tool.

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This collaborative habit facilitates continuous positive momentum in the collaborative experience by cultivating accountability, energy and motivation within the team.  It is achieved by the self-awareness and self-management of each of the collaborating team members and is supported by project management that breaks the project into small steps.

Persistent Small Steps Accountability is a habit that relates to process but is not prescriptive about process, and serves to support both the feel and the function of the collaboration.

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This habit is perhaps the least intuitive for a collaborative habit but of overlooked importance. This habit stipulates the intentional integration of both independent individual work in “the cave” and collective work in “the commons” for the most productive collaboration outcomes. This habit champions the role of the individual and the importance of individual work as a key contributing element to the productivity of collaboration for innovation outcomes.

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This habit is the habit that must be balanced with Habit #5: Flexible Openness.  While Flexible Openness often comes naturally to collaborators, The Courage to Question can feel uncomfortable for many, or be used aggressively by others.  However, used respectfully, it is this habit that steers a collaboration away from being dominated by one, challenges safe thinking, and moves teams towards potential for innovation. 

The courage to question may involve conflict however conflict is not its goal; this is an important distinction. 

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The habit of flexible openness is the feel and function habit that requires every collaborator commit to creating an environment of flexibility and openness. In many ways flexible openness is a manner and behaviour most people naturally assume is the equivalent of collaboration. Not true; collaboration is about much more than getting along.

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This is the habit that establishes the balance between the individual team member and the collective team as a whole; it is a dynamic that is often difficult for us as human creatures to settle into, and can be a stumbling block to productive collaboration.  What is critical to collaboration is for team members to have their individual role within the team while also understanding how that role combines with and contributes to other roles within the team. 

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This is the third post (of nine in total) in a series revealing the topic of the major research project for my Master of Design which addressed the urgent need to build collaborative habits in individual workers to help organizations achieve the innovation imperative of the 21st century. I committed to outline the 8 Collaborative Habits that formed the outcome of the major research project in a series of posts.  Today’s topic is Habit #2: Articulate The Common Goal.

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First of all, I must apologize for the delay with this post.  In my last post, I introduced the topic of the major research project for my Master of Design, completed in 2015, which addressed the importance of building collaborative habits as individual workers to help organizations achieve the innovation imperative of the 21st century. I committed to outline the 8 Collaborative Habits that formed the outcome of the major research project in subsequent posts.

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I (HMSD Principal Heidi McCulloch) graduated last year from the Master of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation program offered by OCAD University in Toronto.  It was a lengthy, challenging but in the end rewarding 5-year process.  A large part of the challenge was the Major Research Project which took 3 of the 5 years to complete.  The culmination was a thesis document that set out to identify "Collaborative Habits for Innovation Outcomes" and was informed by volumes of secondary research and a peppering of qualitative input from seasoned innovation professionals in the Toronto area.  Over the next few blog posts, I am going to introduce the key findings which led to the definition of 8 Collaborative Habits that we can adopt in order to each be more productive collaborators, independently as individuals, as part of a team to drive more innovative outcomes as we collectively work together.

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As HMSD rounds the corner of five years in business, it seems appropriate to articulate the secrets to its success.

The natural explanation might be that the service offering is timely, relevant and in high demand.  And that is certainly true. Customer-centricity in business has absolutely taken hold as has the value of research and strategy that prioritizes understanding human needs as the means to inspire innovation, whether that be in communications, technology, product, service or organizational development.

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Strategy.  It’s the concept of the decade indeed, even of this century perhaps.  In every area and at every level of an organization, there’s a strategy: the corporate strategy, the marketing strategy, the communications strategy, the digital strategy, the pricing strategy, the distribution strategy, the growth strategy, the I.T. strategy and on and on.  There are also myriad places where the strategy can come from: the C-suite, a big consultancy firm, or by hiring from any of the large independent force of strategists.  Like HMSD for example.

Strategy is critical.  But I want to identify something even more important: Vision. 

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Customer-Centricity: A New North Star for Strategy

Clients are more frequently presenting HMSD with issues that bring a handful of complexity along for the ride: multiple stakeholders involved, packed competitive context, intertwined business, brand and product/ service dynamics and customer benefits increasingly shifting to the intangible.  It can be overwhelming.  As can be the journey through the complexity and the search for a solution.  But there is a way to simplify the process, for clients and for strategists and consultants - by shifting the orientation, and by consequence, the tools.

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“Do what you love and the money will come” was the first mantra someone in my family spoke, and it’s one that stuck with me.  I prioritized pursuing my passions in education, in career and in employment-style.  Consequently, I have a few degrees, perhaps unrelated to one another, a career journey that’s as windy as a back road and I am self-employed.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But that does not mean all is sunshine and roses. 

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In a recent foresight project HMSD and a partner completed, we identified the existence of a market dynamic which we referred to as “the disappearing middle”.  This is a North-America-centric dynamic, referencing the fact that middle-class incomes have either stalled or fallen, while income levels for the wealthy are growing[i]. As a result, “the disappearing middle” refers to the loss of the middle-class income bracket in North America, whereby more families are living with less income, while at the same time, more families are also living with more.

 What is increasingly apparent is the effect that the disappearing middle consumer dynamic is having on brands and their business strategies.

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All Collaboration Is Not Created Equal

I’ve been on a quest for at least three years (if not twenty), to build a professional life that works for me. I have realized that ‘works for me’ means it gives me flexibility in terms of my time, it challenges my thinking, and it offers me constant variety.  In many ways I have found that, yet I find new requirements emerging. This involves the fact that the flexibility I love was has been achieved thus far by being my own show: a solo independent.  This independence I have so loved over the last three years however, brings with it limits as to how much one person can accomplish.

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Optimizing for Omni-Channel

The future for corporations of all types will depend on the degree to which their omni-channel activity is coordinated to deliver a seamless, empowering and enjoyable customer experience.  This coming omni-channel reality is a reality whereby physical services and digital services must co-ordinate.

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