Connect People • Strengthen Leaders • Embrace the Future


Col•lab•o•rate… Breakin’ it Down

June 2, 2011 by Jonathan Gilburg

At our quarterly retreat last week, we delved more deeply into the concept of collaboration.  We have been aware, for some time, about the heavy use of this word and concept by organizational leaders to describe the “state of being” they wish to aspire to: what is being shared is actually a future vision or ideal vs. a current reality, since the cultural and operational norms of most organizations today do not resemble collaborative environments.  More often than not we can characterize workplace cultures with words like “stove-piped, competitive, disconnected,” etc.

As we are prone to do, when we encounter a gap between what is wanted and what we have, we ask the questions, “Why the gap?” and “What can we do about it?” 

Last week’s post by Deborah told a poignant story about why we would even want to engage in collaborative, inclusive activity in the first place, as well as some of the painful lessons that might accompany such an endeavor.  This post stimulated several comments and direct emails from folks who resonated with the message about collaboration.  People added their stories and underscored the finer points about what enables collaborative success (e.g. transparency, leadership “vulnerability”, compassion, shared ground rules, etc.); and we heard some cautionary tales about possible pitfalls (e.g. loosing site of actionable outcomes, conflating collaboration and consensus, lack of strategy, etc.).

We intend to continue to post essays that explore the idea of collaboration and inclusion.  Our goal is to get “granular” and specific about what it means to be collaborative, what the common pitfalls and challenges are, what purposes or needs impel us to collaborate, and what role is required of the leader or influencer in the whole process.  Ultimately, these concepts are brought to life with stories, so I invite you to share a story or two about your efforts (successful or otherwise) to collaborate.  We want to hear them and weave them into the conversation, in the hope that we can all learn a few things about this lofty and worthwhile goal.

It is possible to bridge the gap between what we have and what we say we want.  Our proposition is that we need to learn together about the nature of our systemic realities—through stories that illuminate both possibilities and barriers.  Please share your stories and embrace the chance to help others learn.  Thanks.