I haven’t done the exercise of counting yet, but I suspect that there has been an increase in the number of times the word “collaboration” has been used in the media in the last few weeks. The Russians and Americans are “collaborating”, the Flemish and the French, the police and the army, the schools and the communes … everyone. There is nothing quite like a crisis to foster collaboration.
Common enemy or common objective?
Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about to what extent is this the case for the recent enthusiasm to collaborate? If people are collaborating, does it make a difference as to whether the driver is a common enemy or common objective? In the case of COP21 in Paris at the moment, the entire world is trying to collaborate to address the issue of climate change. To a certain extent, we have convinced ourselves that the climate is the enemy and we are scaremongering politicians into thinking that either we are too late or it is nearly too late to fix the problem. In other words, do it guys as you don’t really have the choice. Some of the videos showing violent storm surges, ravaging desertification etc… all give us the impression that mother nature is out to get us. This is indicative of our approach to collaboration. More driven by fear than anything positive.
I like this video to illustrate a little the mentality of collaborating against a common enemy:
In the case of the recent terror attacks, it was very much a case of common enemy. I can imagine Putin calling Obama and saying, hey, I don’t like you and you don’t like me but we both hate the others so let’s work together to destroy them. Conversely, the collaboration between schools and communes is more about protecting a shared interest, the safety of our kids, rather than destroying a common enemy. This is also the case for many of the crowdfunding project I’ve seen where the focus is on the positive outcome from collaboration rather than the consequences of not doing so.
In all cases, it is collaboration but I do think that the reason why we collaborate makes a difference. I believe that it effects the sustainability of the collaboration. In the case of common enemies, once they are defeated, we often go back to looking after ourselves. Look at what happened in Afghanistan, Iraq etc… In many cases we collaborated with the guys who then became the enemy as it had a negative driver to begin with and relatively short-term objectives.
In the case of collaborating for a common objective, it tends to be more constructive, longer term and more likely to endure as it is based on building strong relationships rather than addressing short-term problems.
Why wait for a crisis
It seems to me that human beings have understood that we can achieve greater things when we collaborate together and this is why we do it so well when in crisis management. If that is the case, why don’t we do it more often? The good news is that I think there are more and more people arriving at this conclusion. I’m now working on the development of two new businesses which are based on collaboration and co-creation. In both cases, I have found other people who want to collaborate because they think it is the best way forward to create bigger impact and quite frankly, it is more fun. The fun element should not be underestimated. I think that there are a number of reasons why we choose to do this and these become collaboration and co-creation enablers:
We decide – we are not being influenced by lobby groups or other external factors. Each of us has our own personal situations which impact our ability to co-create, take risks etc.. and that leads to point 2….
We are open and transparent – we understand that there may be things happening in our personal lives which will impact our professional lives. Rather than building an artificial wall between the two parts of ourselves, we learn to share with each other why we choose to do certain things. That results in point number 3
Trust – we don’t start off by trusting each other but we do things which enable us to build that trust over time. In other words, we invest in relationships, not just outcomes and that is because of point 4
We use our 3 brains – In the case of a crisis, it is the head telling us that it makes sense to collaborate. I think that in the case of common objectives, it is more a case of the gut telling us that this feels right and then the head figuring out how to make it work
The point of this particular post is to get us thinking about the obstacles and enablers to collaboration. What are the circumstances which lead people to want to create common objectives, foster trust and transparency and see the bigger picture, rather than just focusing on their own personal interests? In essence, this is what leads to community based projects. Start by making it fun. Build the “common” before focusing on the “common objective”!