JKLTip Start projects with other people where you are truly starting from scratch
People working together at a whiteboard
A few extras in the room

Phenomena of Collaboration

There are two phenomenal things that take place with collaboration that are not possible with individual work. As a network effect grows there become entities beyond the number of people. Take for example I write a story alone, the results are limited to my mind. Let’s say I add a partner, the relationship between us develops, but so does the third entity. We need a sense of wonder to appreciate the third entity because it’s not overly predictable. It is the actions, results, and experiences that could only exist under the circumstances of this exact relationship. Moreover, it becomes more effective the more we focus on values vulnerability, empathy, and trust. 

The second collaboration phenomenon is the concept Muhammad Ali referenced, in what I believe to be the world’s shortest poem, “Me We”. Essentially a focus on the collective, a focus on relationships and culture is far more important than strategy. Goals change, the environment changes, problems change, but if our relationships are effective, then our solutions will crush it. If not we’ll learn and repeat because the sum of our team is greater than our parts. 

I’ve read a number of articles, heard people complain on podcasts that collaboration is becoming over-hyped, and overused. Curious to know what Google thought, I performed a quick trends search. I found it’s been a pretty stable keyword for well over five years without much change. I don’t think it’s overused as a term. What I think is that we misunderstand the true nature and benefit of collaboration.

Collaboration is a mindset

Simply stated, collaboration is a collective of people, two, or more working together to solve a problem. This can look very different, from filming a Netflix sensation like Stranger Things, to designing a new layout for the staff room at work. Ed Sheeran’s latest album is called Collaborations Project because each song is created with other artists. It is a perfect example of people getting together to solve a problem, collaborating on making music people will love. 

Would any of the songs on the album exist without those exact collaborations?
Simple answer: No.
Complex answer: If you observe the styles of each song they are unique to the partnership that exists between the specific people per track. 

Collaboration seems straightforward, but the actual mindset is often missing. Just because two people work together doesn’t mean it was collaborative. I said yesterday that perspective is fascinating to me since we often think we have it, but don’t actually practice it. Now that I am reflecting, I think collaboration is very similar. This is why I love whiteboards, sticky notes, and balled up pieces of paper in a wastebasket. It symbolizes real collaboration, setting out on a journey, to design and solve while learning along the way, together.

I recently adopted some new mindsets intended to lead to feedback quicker and more opportunities to work together:

“No Filter”: I post what comes to mind, I don’t overthink reaching out to people, or coming up with ideas because these things are worth doing fast.

“Make It, Send It”: We can always overthink a project, we could always try to make things more “perfect” but it is way better to make more things, to publish way short of “ready” and share them.

“8 Billion People”: We genuinely can learn incredible things from others, not just the life advice gurus. They have great ideas too, but they also have money, marketing, and distribution. It may be the homeless woman, a past criminal, living with schizophrenia who has three months to live who holds that piece of life wisdom we are longing for.

Collaboration Goals

What has been interesting is that the “just keep learning” tribe has grown, I have been thrust into working with many more people. The whole idea is that we can learn from as many people as possible. This would be easy if it were black and white questions and answers, but it’s not. The whole intention is to bring creative collaboration to the project. That’s the hard part. To tell the stories, wisdom, and knowledge of all these great people in as compelling a way as possible. 

We make a mistake thinking that collaboration is accustomed to creative careers. It is clear that collaboration is a mindset, not something specific to a field. For example, a doctor, or a CFO could prove to be far more collaborative than a guitarist, or a photographer. Regardless of past time, or work experience, most people want to know “the script”. Most people want to have an idea of what the content will become. I can coach people so as to work with anyone, but the real excitement comes when the wonder, the exploration, the play is from both sides. That is to say, there is a balanced third entity.

I hope that one thing I always hold true in perpetuity is that I collaborated with as many people as possible.  Beyond time constraints, I hope I find a way to overcome barriers to work with anyone who wants to work together. With everyone I do end up working with, I hope to always support true collaboration. I could work with Will Smith or Ellen one day and return right back the next day to working with someone serving life, or a homeless woman on the corner.

* Come see why we started talking about Values
** Would love to have your guest posts 8 Billion People Project


Mental Health, Values

You may also like

But, Why Not?

But, Why Not?