The Power of Successful Collaboration

David Savage has a strong focus on building capacity, innovation, and accountability in people and in and between organizations and communities. Beginning in 2015, David has published seven books and hosted forty-five podcasts on collaborative leadership, negotiation, critical thinking, creating shared value, and collaboration. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his book, Break Through to Yes.

Please give us a short introduction to what Break Through to Yes is about.

Kirkus Review

“A book that thoroughly examines the power of successful collaborations.”

Canadian collaboration expert Savage … offers a work that couldn’t be more timely. While it addresses organizational collaboration, this book could be interpreted more broadly as a treatise on building a cooperative culture within families, groups, businesses, and government. In a collection of concise chapters, Savage leads the reader through a discussion of the meaning and value of collaboration. The author supplements his own experiences over more than four decades with extensive quotes from experts and results from surveys that he conducted; in effect, he collaborated far and wide to garner input for this volume. Part One lays the groundwork by first exploring reasons for collaboration, why it fails, and what is required for effective collaboration. Part Two explores “The Discipline of Collaboration,” addressing such issues as why collaboration is misunderstood, how to involve stakeholders, and why the practice demands “opening the mind…opening the heart…and opening the will.” This section also delivers a useful assessment tool to determine the state of an organization’s “collaborative ecosystem.” In Part Three, Savage provides a comprehensive road map via ten specific steps for implementing organizational collaboration…”

What inspired you to write this book? Was there anything in particular that made you want to tackle this?

Working together well is critical to the success of organizations, communities, nations, and families.

At times, when leaders espouse collaboration, it rolls out more like manipulation and less like innovation by teams.

When I started to write Break Through to Yes, there were few books on collaboration. Those that were published were written by one or two people. My seven books in the Break Through to Yes series include over 100 leaders from eight nations. Integrity demands that a book series on collaboration and leadership must not be the perspectives of a very few.

Why, would you say, is collaboration so daunting to a lot of people?

Because, too often, leaders have already made up their minds before they “collaborate”. And because collaboration done very well takes time. Collaboration is not an event. Successful organizations know that collaboration must be a key part off their culture. That is the subtitle; Unlocking the Possible within a Culture of Collaboration.

Many would rather work on their own, why is it important to give collaboration a try?

Often, working alone is a successful strategy. Teams and leaders require a range of “tools in their “toolbox”.

If you want to build your team, gain insights from diverse perspectives, generate ideas that no one alone might possess, and then lock in specific accountabilities for individuals and teams, then collaboration done well meets these needs.

What is your favorite quote from the book and why?

“As we witnessed in North American and world politics, there is increasing anger and polarization and judgment and wall building going on, fear-based leadership. And today’s leadership, we need future-based leadership. We know the power of nature so it’s not only something we want to protect, it’s something we want to gain from …the visual that came to mind was a creek that flows into a river that turns into an ocean.

We are a trickle right now in that creek and we know where we are floating. Gravity is taking us to that ocean, but that drop of water that we are separately has no idea the journey we are about to go. Definitely, this is not a smooth ride. There are lots of rapids. There are lots of bumps. There are lots of boulders in our way. …

We need more [leaders] that can convene those safe spaces where the people with conflict and judgment of each other start to lean in and start to build some form of dialogue. I know that once you get them in the room, that is all they need to do. It happens and it takes moments and it takes years, but once they show up, you know they’re in.“


Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?

I coach leaders through complex challenges to turn them into significant opportunities. I work with organizations to build their skills and successes. I negotiate deals and assist companies to effectively resolve their internal and external conflicts.

A great skill I cherish is an ability to listen deeply for what is underneath.

Tell us more about the cover and how it came about.

Thank you for asking. The cover is a key message hidden in the words.


What are the shaded letters in the title Break Through to Yes? E G O S. Egos are the biggest enemy of effective collaboration.

You include a lot of examples from your own life experiences in this book, why did you find this important to do?

For a leader to build trust, they must be transparent and vulnerable. Like you, I have had great successes in my life and career, and I have had many failures. I included many experiences so that the reader might connect with those experiences, and we may learn from them.

Books on leadership must be from true leaders and their experiences. Otherwise, its just my ego “shoulding” on you.

Why did you title this “Break Through to Yes”?

With well-designed collaborations and an evolving organizational culture, significant breakthroughs become much more likely.

In my series, I offer my Ten Essential Steps to Collaboration.

With this process that incudes Be Aware, Embrace Conflict, Seek Diversity and Listen Deeply, innovation, engagement, trust, multi talented teams often breakthrough to their own yes.

In my career, as written in my books, I have employed this strategy and have come out with plans that I had never considered previously. And these breakthroughs positively changed my companies and my life.


What did you have the most fun with when writing this book?

Talking with so many leaders around the world about their experiences and wisdom. Then collaborating with a researcher to discover the alignments and common barriers.

Who are you speaking to in the book? Who do you imagine your audience to be?

As Kirkus noted; “While it addresses organizational collaboration, this book could be interpreted more broadly as a treatise on building a cooperative culture within families, groups, businesses, and government.”

Collaboration is a key skill for every part of our lives. As a father and grandfather, as a leader in Rotary and in business, working together better is, well, better.

Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?

I really enjoy starting my writing at 5:30 in the morning. My heart, spirit and mind is fresh at that time. Writing is the start of a wonderful day. Then coaching and consulting. Then getting outside being active in nature.

What are you working on right now?

Two of my current writing projects are Mogry and Get Down! These are storytelling with an underlying message of collaborative learning.

Mogry is a young adult fiction book that I am creating with my 12-year-old granddaughter (writer) and 14-year-old grandson (illustrator). The lead characters are my five grandchildren as they encounter fear, curiosity, learning, connection, and leadership.

Get Down is a historical fiction based on the story of my father in World War II. As a young Canadian engineer, Dad led seventy-five men onto the beaches of France and, in the months to come, their mission was to get behind Nazi lines and, as Dad told me, “Blow stuff up!”.

Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?

Thank you for your interest.

My website is

My email is

My books are avaible in print, digital and audio through Amazon.

My articles on LinkedIn are;

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David B Savage

David B Savage