What is (radical) Collaboration?

"No one of us is as smart as all of us."
- Ken Blanchard

After watching the video, reflect on the questions below:

  1. What are the most challenging 'red zone' situations you face in your work?
  2. Thinking about your best collaborative experiences, what created the conditions to cultivate collaboration?
  3. What is your biggest personal challenge regarding your own defensiveness?

Put your responses to the questions in a comment on this post.

Ben Mcleod / Unsplash

Myths about Collaboration

"Collaboration is really about putting the pieces of a puzzle together."

Actually, collaboration is about learning, ideating, synthesizing, and solving as one - versus as separate experts solving pieces. Radical Collaboration requires a level of vulnerability and more give-and-take than simply bringing functional experts together put pieces together.

Collaboration is an 'inside job' meaning that it starts with ones internal state. In other words, self-awareness is fundamental to collaboration, especially for a facilitator. If you can't see past your own defensiveness and bias, then you can't help your teams to see past theirs.

"Give us tools and a good process and the rest will follow."

You may have seen different teams work on similar challenges with same processes and tools. Inevitably the diverse, connected team that collaborate and acts as one that will develop the most creative, useful solutions. When all else is equal the most connected and collaborative team is the most productive.

"Collaboration takes time away from the work. Let's just get on with it."

If we define 'the work' as finding the most creative solutions to crack a complex challenge, then collaboration is a core part of the work. Much like the paradoxical skill of 'Slow Down to Go Fast', the time invested in creating the conditions for a collaborative environment has outsized benefits.

"Collaboration means that we are working together ALL the time."

Collaboration is a state of relationship within the team and is not predicated on the number of people together at any point in time. In fact, as a facilitator you can often create the best collaborative situations by "changing the geometry" - having team members work individually, in triads, and as a whole.

(radical) Collaboration is fundamental to solving tough challenges

Its exciting to imagine a supernatural ability to overcome any adversity ... yet the reality is that we have to bring the superpowers of multiple people together to find a way to solve our toughest problems.

Collaboration is a constantly-used word in corporations. Yet collaboration usually falls short of it's promise. Why? When we speak of radical collaboration, we are focused on revealing and unleashing the collective creativity and intelligence of a team. It is a radical approach that asks people to be radically human and use their inborn skills of empathy, compassion, and . It is about learning, solving, and achieving as one.
Collaboration skills
Ben Mcleod / Unsplash

Create the Conditions

What is it?

To get teams to solve brilliantly, we need to rethink collaboration beyond 'people working together'. Creating the conditions for brilliance is about being intentional about setting the stage for people to bring their very best and for the team to unleash their collective genius. Doing so is about asking people to be insanely human in relating to each other, the customer, and the organization. It requires perseverance, courage, and skill.

Leadership is all about creating the conditions. This is not a one-time thing where the conditions are set then it is done. Much like human-centered design, creating the conditions takes understanding and iteration.

Why is it important?

Facilitators can choose to create the conditions for collaboration by design or allow the conditions to happen by default. Without intentionality, we abdicate our responsibility to create the conditions for radical collaboration.  

How do I do it?

Start with the end in mind by considering what success looks like for a given team and what you want for the team. Walk in the shoes of your team and imagine how they would be served by how you set the space, organize time, and keep them energised, focused, and inspired. How will they accomplish the difficult journey ahead of them. What do they need you to do. What do they need you to NOT do? Remain vigilant, check in with the team, and continue to iterate.

Ben Mcleod / Unsplash

Include all Voices

What is it?

Including all Voices is about creating psychological safety, inclusion and leveraging the diversity in the room. All of this is to discover and unleash the collective intelligence of a team.

Why is it important?

There is tremendous power in diversity IF that diversity can be harnessed. Scott E. Page (University of Michigan) stated that 'diversity trumps expertise' meaning that a group of diverse novices will outperform a group pf experts when novice team members are diverse, socially sensitive, and take turns in conversations (i.e. they hear all voices). People also often have surprising talents that aren't part of their job description, so their inclusion can provide hidden capability to the team.

How do I do it?

Begin by 'tracking' (paying attention to the dynamics in the room) and making space for the quiet voices. Check in with the quiet voices and find ways to make them comfortable speaking up. This is particular an environment that loud voices don't dominate, which is too common.

Ben Mcleod / Unsplash

Share Stories

What is it?

There are two sides to storytelling. From a cognitive perspective, neuroscientists know that we use more parts of our brains when we hear stories versus when we hear simple information. Story and metaphor are powerful brain activators and actually help us experience the experiences of others. From a relational standpoint, we stories help us understand more of what's 'under the surface' - the motivations and shaping experiences - of those we are serving. We are wired for story and metaphor.

Why is it important?

When we are solving difficult challenges we need a lot of information. Storytelling elicits more connection and information, and different kinds of information, about a customer or colleague that we are solving for. Story elicits more empathy and generosity, we learn more through stories, and

How do I do it?

Start by making a practice of telling stories yourself. Open up to the team and model vulnerability. Tell a story about a time when things were against you: What did you learn? How has it made you stronger as a result? This sends a signal to people that your is a safe space to tell deep, meaningful stories.

Complement data with the stories behind the data. Learn the simple 3-part story framework and the Heroes Journey and apply it in your solving teams.