October 18

Collaboration is a SuperPower

The following is a synopsis of the Open House Discussion hosted on August 5th, 2022 with facilitator Anne Peterson. These discussions are part of a series that will culminate at the upcoming Imagining in Action Summit.

Discover Your Superpower

As a writer, I often think about the muse. There are many ways to think about the muse - about this person or personified force that provides creative inspiration. There are many theories out there about the muse and how creative inspiration works - that it comes to us and shows us the way to our next story, painting or poem. This can be fickle, and we must be on high alert so that we can tap in when she comes to visit us. 

However, when I think about the muse, I prefer to think of it as an incredible, larger than life force - one that we cannot hold or contain, but that we can tap into - that we can catch like a surfer catches a wave and ride it for as long as we can hold onto it. I believe that there are many forces out there like that. And one of those forces is collaboration.

In a previous article, we discussed collaboration. True collaboration doesn’t have a simple definition and often when we speak about collaboration, we are actually talking about cooperation or working together. Cooperation is a great way to work. It can lead to collective action, and great things can definitely be achieved with cooperation. But cooperation is merely transactional and the outcomes can be limited.  Even more powerful than cooperation is collaboration.

Collaboration amplifies the actions that are taken, is more than the sum of its parts, and collaboration is natural. It happens in nature, as plants and animals can show us, intertwining with one another. It happens when we are children, and we come together to play a game. It happens when disaster strikes, and we forget our own needs and we come together in the aftermath to put our communities back together. Collaboration isn’t something that we do - it is something that we participate in. It is there waiting, wanting to happen for us. It is required for our big visions to come to life.

The truth is - we collaborate more than we realize.  Living in communities demands collaboration. And we could plug into collaboration so much more to achieve some of our biggest communal goals as human beings. So if this is the case - why doesn’t it feel as if it comes more naturally?

Collaboration can be difficult. It’s a pain in the neck. It is an assault on our ego, as we often have to give up our own point of view in service of the greater goal. And collaborating over specific goals requires a great deal of intention, as well as a number of other skills.

The skills needed to access collaboration

  1. Authentic listening. In our previous article, we talked a lot about the WeFactor - that US instead of You and Me phenomenon.  The WeFactor is integral to tapping into collaboration and making the most of it. The key to being attuned to one another is listening authentically. This means listening not only to hear and to respond, but also listening to what the other person is truly saying. Authentic listening can be tricky because it involves admitting what we don’t know. It means listening for where we may be wrong, and trying to understand others and their point of view. It can make us aware of our shortcomings, and it means we are not the center of attention. This can feel painful, and it requires practice.

  1. Setting a big vision, and communicating it with others. This can often be what stands in the way of collaboration, if we do not have the skill to allow others on board with our big vision. True collaboration isn’t taking place unless the vision becomes a shared one. This requires leadership that is passionately committed to the vision, as well as able to clearly communicate it.

  1. Giving up our point of view. We must also be so dedicated to the vision that we are willing to make sacrifices for it.  One of those sacrifices may be our own point of view. It can be difficult to hold a vision, while simultaneously being ready to admit that we might not know everything or be right about what is required to make it happen.

  1. Saying yes. Collaboration can also require us to say yes - even when we aren't sure how it will all come together. We accept assistance and say yes, which can be almost as humbling as giving up our point of view. We stay open, not only to suggestions but to contributions from others, and are prepared to use them, trusting that it will all work out and at the right time.

What makes it easier for us to tap into collaboration?

As we develop these skills, it becomes easier to tap into collaboration, as we work towards our big dreams. Instead of fighting against it in favor of our own self preservation, we connect to the WeFactor, and we work together. As we collaborate and begin to make the impossible happen, we get more and more tuned in to the art of collaboration. 

Knowing the importance of collaboration, we can be intentional about it. We start to become aware of it - aware of where it is already happening. Aware of when we are fighting against it. And aware of the skills we need to better connect to it. When we can harness this force that is all around us, we can use it in service of the greater good.

Synopsis written by iLumn8 contributing author Safiya Robinson, in-house copy editor Susan Bouet and founder Anne Peterson.