5 Rules For Successful Collaboration

Play nice…

Play nice? I know this may not sound impressive, yet indulge me a moment and you will see that these words can change any collaboration form a possible to a definite success. First I should clarify, these are not really rules, more like great hints. Rules are made to be broken, not hints.

So growing up I was told, like any child, when playing with others to play nice and get along. A common phrase out of any parents terms for children. I heard this all through my elementary and middle school years, but it wasn’t until one of my first facilitated ideation/brainstorming sessions did these words began to have a whole new meaning.

The Story Behind the Idea (based on a true story)

The day of the event, I was pumped, confident in my planning and the fact I knew I was going to blow them away about how good I was helping them create hundreds of great ideas. Yes, I know, I was unprepared for what was to come.

Eighteen people from the company had confirmed attendance in advance, but that bright and sunny morning at 7:30 I waited. The session was scheduled for 8:00. The clock must have been set fast, because 8 o’clock came and went without a single person to show. It wasn’t until 8:20 that a small group of five arrived. Where was everyone one else I wondered. No one else would come.

After a bit of discussion, I was informed my that no one else was coming because the meeting was not really mandatory so they cancelled at the last-minute. But, to my surprise, this five still wanted to have the session. Maybe it was to get out of whatever their day offered or boredom. Whatever the reason they were here and the event was paid for.

Rule one, don’t sweat. Don’t panic. 

Quickly I exited the room and confronted a hotel staff and asked if anyone from the hotel would be interested in participating in a brainstorming session to help a local company with a problem. Out went the call over the staff radio. I returned to the room and began the session by listing the key outcome of the meeting even in this few of participants. I had the “group” list some major issues they would be hoping to discuss.

As I listed each of the issues with some conversation, I noticed a few staff had entered the room. They told me they were here to take part of the event. By the time I had them get seated, ten had joined the group. We were now 15 people strong; 5 insiders and 10 outsiders.

Time to improvise. Dance, man, dance.

Without rehashing painful details and some stumbling, let me just state that after 4 hours the session went surprisingly well, no, actually, went exceptionally well. Something happened that even I would not ever planned for or could even imagine was possible. The group was energetic, insightful and very productive. 

But why did it happen?

Perfect time to take you back to the original statement… ‘play nice.’ Play nice is not just a statement of politeness and behavior conditioning as once thought, no, it is in fact a clue to having a great collaboration. These words ‘Play nice’ have become a powerful tool in my toolbox of collaboration. A set of hints that grant me the best chance at success, for ‘Play nice’ is actually five words of wisdom. Let me show you.

Play N.I.C.E

The word “Play” is the first key to a great event. Some collaboration events, possibly more than shared, are slow, unproductive or down right fail, not some much because of the facilitator doing something wrong are not providing the right stimulus, because I believe it’s an issue of egos and status. People are always in competition. Competition drives rigidity, confrontation and conformity. True play frees us from this rigidity. When children are truly in the flow of play, it’s about having no boundaries, no limitations and moving freely from idea to idea and always changing. So make sure the participants are put into a state of play, make them child-like in their thinking. Avoid commitment to one idea. This is the first lesson I learned from the story. The hotel staff had nothing to prove, so they played. They had no limitations and were free to try ideas.

N letteris for ‘Notice’. To take notice means to be aware of your surroundings and to pay attention. In this case, to pay attention to others and the ideas the share. To take notice of others is a deliberate conscious act of giving others your attention with an open mind. So notice others, their ideas, the surroundings and how these ideas can grow.

Looking back at the story I realized that the staff  had no knowledge about the original 5’s issues and because of this, they were able to give them their full attention to learn more about them and the challenges they faced. They took notice completely of the original five.

I letteris for ‘Inspire’. If you are consciously taking notice of others and their ideas it is easy to inspire them to grow those ideas. By inspiring others to flourish, something amazing begins to happen, we become inspired ourselves. Our minds begin to “play” with these ideas and add to them, growing from others inspiration.

In the story, the team were providing a source of fresh thinking as an outside source. The staff, growing more knowledgeable of the issues, could feed them insights, parallel thinking as well as build on their thoughts. They were inspiring fresh thinking to current situations.

C letteris for “Create”. Create is the act of making something. It can be by the blending of ideas or inspired by other’s ideas and built upon to create a new idea. This is at the heart of collaboration, combining ideas and applying structure to these ideas. Making them solidify into something becoming almost tangible.

By collaborating with the staff, the developed new concepts or applied concepts built on from the staff. The ideas were weighed and adjusted to become more relevant to the issues at hand. they were becoming real solutions or opportunities. They were becoming solidified.

E letteris for “Explore”. Any new idea created is worth exploring. Since this new idea was formed out of a deliberate act of awareness and blended with other ideas, investigate it, analyze it for potential applications, developing new avenues, changing existing ideas or for the pure pleasure of exploring something new. Exploration allows us the beginning stages of further solidifying new ideas. It helps us to understand how ideas could work and become real.

So, as you can see by the story and the five words that my mother told me so many years ago, but took so long to learn…

Play N.I.C.E.

Words to live by, collaborate by and to grow with.

Until next time, remember, ‘The best plan is one that all can see.”

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