“Yeah, I know that.”
“But do you do it?”
“That’s just common sense.”
“But it’s not common practice.”
“Those guidelines have been true forever.”
“But we’re so quick to forget them.”
There’s a fine dance to be had in our practice of collaborating with others to achieve better together than we can alone. While there have been breathtaking advances in the technology to support collaboration over the past decade – to the extent that the technology is hardly ever the limiting factor now – our ability to actually collaborate with others requires something the technology can’t offer. Ever. And that’s the human willingness to offer our alone in pursuit of a better together.
In Pursuit of a Better Together
It’s the willingness to state your own viewpoint with passion and conviction – to speak what you believe – but to provide the equal right to another to do the same. You have your viewpoint. They have their viewpoint. And while both can seem perfectly correct and well-founded and well-researched when held internally, it’s the intersection between the two (or three or ten) that creates collaborative synergy. I don’t really like the language of “a little bit of your viewpoint mixed with my viewpoint to get your buy-in;” that seems too much like fake news. Perhaps my viewpoint, while valid at a point in time, isn’t the full story or the best story, and I’m actually more than happy to give away my viewpoint and embrace yours when I can see a better way.
It’s the willingness to do the best you can in preparation for a collaborative session, but then listen with even greater intensity to the feedback, ideas, viewpoints – and disagreements – from the other people in the meeting. That can mean turning on a Euro (“turning on a dime” is the more usual way of saying that) to embrace better ideas that bubble up through conversation, dialogue, and shared learning. Bringing such willingness doesn’t change whether we meet face-to-face in-person, face-to-face via Microsoft Teams, face-to-face via Cisco Telepresence, or mind-to-mind through a discussion forum … the technology, irrespective of what it is, is only ever a facilitator of connection. It’s what happens between us as human beings that holds the potential to transform mere technical connectivity into creativity and collaborative synergy.
It’s the willingness to try again this day, despite human failings, disappointments, language barriers, technical sub-optimalities, and being knocked off your best game. The willingness to listen so as to learn. To speak so as to enlighten. To work together so as to flourish together.