For about 30 years I have attempted to bring a diverse group of people together to work on various projects and have been thwarted by egoic outbursts and breakdowns. Some of those egoic outbursts would have surely been my own.
Yet on November 5th, 2015, after 5 months of hard work and planning, a team of people, all unknown to each other prior, came together and produced an amazing event, Big Blue Sky. Without a single upset. Not even a shadow of an upset. Even more outstanding, we did this with almost zero budget. Plus huge time pressures.
The event was world class. And has produced, as it was designed to, 14 plus projects.
When people say collaboration is hard, I say yes, it is hard. But I know now from experience that it is entirely possible. It requires some very critical ingredients.
- You must start with an aspirational purpose. A moonshot. It has to be far enough out of the realm of possibility to elevate all participants to a higher order of response than their default behaviour. If you do not have this aspirational purpose, and if this purpose is not crystal clear and inviolate, then we humans so easily fall back upon ourselves and start to play small silly egoic games. The aspirational purpose is the light that attracts. Everyone who participates wants to achieve this particular purpose. At no time can you shrink the purpose. Or violate it. The moment you do, you have lost the very DNA of what you are co-ordinating around. I cannot stress this enough. The amount of times people tried to get us to deduct, reduce, downshift, delay…because what we were doing could not be done.
- To participate on the organising team there has to be a threshold to cross. The threshold we used was that everyone needed to take several actions. They had to nominate clearly, in 6 domains, what they had the willingness and desire to bring to the collaboration and project. And they has to nominate clearly what they expected to gain from their participation, in 6 domains. Those domains are commodity, custom and culture, knowledge, money, technology, well being. This integral audit was held in a google document, so all participants were aware of each others audit. Every participant knew that this audit was mutable. It would and could change from day to day, week to week, month to month. Each participant is 100% responsible for communicating any changes in their audit and negotiating alternatives. In my experience, people have difficulty naming what they want or expect to gain from participation. This might be for many reasons including but not limited to…not knowing, not having the courage to ask, lack of awareness, not having all of the information. The process itself, which is generative, is very powerful, as it requires participants to learn to speak up and claim their needs and desires as valid. This does not mean that we can say yes to them all. But in knowing, we can choose to move towards fulfillment, or declare with candor that one of their needs/desires will not be possible at this stage. The overall outcome is an in-time management of expectations and an avoidance of resentment. We want people to feel fully valued for their contribution.
- A commitment to clean communication. Simply put, clean communication is the state where there is no polarity within a relational dynamic that is destructive. No anger, blame, upset, jealousy, confusion… That any person who experiences the upset has agreed to clean it up until they are restored to a neutral state at minimum or a positive experience of love, joy, peace, shared purpose and alignment.
All of these activities require a caliber of people who are willing to invest first, to give before taking. They need a high degree of emotional, spiritual and physical intelligence.
The final piece of the required ingredients has been covered extensively in the wonderful work of Fredric Laloux, author of Reinventing Organisations. Check out my podcast interview here.
The leader and the board of the organisation need to be at a high stage of human development. This is part of the reason it took me 30 years to get collaboration to work effectively. I wasn’t who I needed to be. I needed to not have it be about me, to not need to be the boss, to not need the limelight. I needed to have the emotional, spiritual, intellectual and physical maturity to know the difference between leading and stewarding. That my role was to steward the aspirational purpose. To invite engagement, to allow form to be mutable, to keep the core principles and values inviolate. But other than this, to enable a high degree of fluidity and self management. To create a space for people to show up as their best selves. My role was in the background. To fiercely protect the principles. To stay humble. To give others the spotlight. This is so easy to do when we reach a stage in our development where we know we are enough, as we are, with nothing to prove..and where we can now dedicate our time to an aspirational goal that serves all of humanity. The principles of this for Big Blue Sky are held in the Trust Manifesto, part of the legal document that holds the context for our purpose. (Please email me for a copy of the Trust Manifesto)
The world needs collaboration. The world needs people to come together and create things that cannot be created in isolation. Doing this while maintaining flow, ease and grace is entirely possible.
If you would like to be the seed generator of a collaborative initiative, look closely to your impulse and desire. Start with telling yourself the truth of what it your purpose for doing this.
Always start here…the raw bones, cold hard truth of your why. If your why transcends your own egoic self and you set these several ingredients in place, you will probably create an outstandingly effective level of collaboration.
Need help with building collaborative teams and events?…I might be able to mentor and advise. Email me.
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