When I read the following blog title in Inc.com, ‘Collaboration’ Creates Mediocrity, Not Excellence, According to Science, I was stunned. Probably for two reasons, the first being I’ve spent nearly 30 years in business successfully collaborating and co-creating and the second being many corporations — Apple, Google, etc. — constructed their very successful business models on collaboration.
The blog’s author, Geoffrey James, further confounded me with his next line — “Far from being a productivity panacea, a collaborative culture will drive your top performers away.” Now I felt certain, this blog was titled provocatively to attract readership attention as opposed to written insightfully, which adds valuable knowledge about what it means to be human. Professional journalists shudder when their ethical code of “seeking truth and reporting it” is ignored.
As with most things we write and do, we reveal who we are. I suspect James’s rant depicts his own challenges with collaboration and teamwork. As a life coach, I mentored many clients through “relationship challenges” both at work and at home. Paradoxically, our most powerful learning and thereby transformational experiences are presented to us through our daily relations. Isn’t it interesting that those who choose to isolate and withdraw from human contact are often spiritually, physically and emotionally ill. Even monastic life requires interacting with other monks. Regardless of gender, ethnicity or occupation, humans are social beings. It is how we learn, grow and evolve.
Although James eventually admits humans need each other — “most complex projects require a team to successfully complete”, he implies high performers leave organizations because collaboration creates mediocre performance. This exodus, he claims, is due to jealousy and sabotage from moderate or low performers. Of course, most of us have experienced co-workers, friends or even family members’ whose similar misdeeds ended their relationships with others or even us. However, to hold collaboration responsible for their immature behaviour is irrational and ungrounded. In actuality, our connections with others teach us what mature appropriate responses entail. Hence, the adage — model the behaviour you want to see.
From both a personal and interpersonal perspective, when we “do the work”
necessary to becoming a contributing human being, we are both creatively
productive and socially responsible.
In essence and regardless of maturity, ‘many heads’ acting collaboratively is what makes creativity and innovation a greater possibility. In order to resolve today’s complex, wicked problems — poverty, mental illness, homelessness, terrorism, etc. — we need to activate an even deeper collaboration than previously experienced.
Collaboration is a learning and relationship experience. We are learning about our capacity to perform productively and to relate harmoniously with others. If we are not open to learning who we or they are or willing to improve upon our current version of ourselves, we miss the point and rewards of interpersonal relations — transformation.
My greatest lessons and rewards have come from my relationships. I am currently invested in a virtual collaboration team whose book-writing task has spanned several years. At my point of greatest impatience, I wrote to the team about our “mediocre performance” based on my own assumption that a high-performing team would have completed and published the book sooner. To my surprise, not one team member responded to my note. I must admit I initially felt ignored, and then the following bit of wisdom appeared on my computer screen shortly thereafter.
We often add to our pain and suffering by being overly sensitive, over-reacting
to minor things, and sometimes taking things too personally. Dalai Lama
So, I decided to let go of rushing whatever result we collectively were attempting to evolve and experience. My mantra has since become — Be patient. Good things take time. If the collective efforts of this writing team in collaboration with the universe’s wisdom have yet to consolidate, then my best course of action is to accept what is. There is no need to exit. There is no need to push harder. To do either would negate the fact that something “sacred” is waiting to be born. That is the mystery of being — this sense of mystery revealing itself on its own time and schedule.
As is often the case, when my behaviour aligns with the universe, a poem forms.
Wonders never cease when inspiration
busily plays flag woman for our attention.
Forthcoming creative chaos necessitates
being present on purpose without judgment.
To surrender personal desires, ambitions, goals
for intuitive glimpses gifted by the cosmos
is to release the rush for results.
Entrance into deep collaboration
tests the impatient traveler who,
not yet versed in this intimate interaction,
must rediscover the gentle passage to wholeness.
From felt experience comes the language
of poetic understanding and wisdom,
where words now echo the returning oneness.
What prevailing sense of mystery is currently apparent in your life and guiding your behaviour?
For more on deep collaboration and the mystery of being, click here.