Your Path to Powerful Collaboration

Consider how political, social, and economic pressures shape patterns of collaboration in your world.

  • There is too much to do with too few resources.

    We can’t know if or when we have enough information to act. Deadlines and timelines drive the pace of change and decision making. There is never enough time, money, or engagement to do what needs to be done.
  • No decision is simple anymore.

    You need solutions that meet needs of a highly diverse population. Many voices clamor to be heard. Each has a valid claim to consider. Finding one solution for all often leads to unsatisfying compromise and mediocre solutions.
  • Ideals and positions are often polarized and intractable.

    When people come to the table with diametrically opposed positions, it’s hard to see a path to a solution. Motivations, interpretations, and expectations bring significant differences to decision-making processes.

The types of challenges can show up in all kinds of collaboration: cross-functional teams, working across silos, public-private partnerships, and employee and community engagements. Collaboration across these kinds of challenges can make your work messy and frustrating. The process of trying to unbraid such a challenge to find the “best” solution gets more and more complicated. You get stuck trying  to manage dialogue, explore issues, and find a logical outcome.

Today’s collaboration challenges seem intractable because of their inherent complexity. They are open to influence by multiple forces that create huge tensions. The increasing diversity you face is immense. Each person, institution, or community brings its own unique history. There is no “cookie cutter” response to make these complex challenges go away. No single “best practice,” implemented in its entirety, is guaranteed to be the solution you seek.

HSD offers a path for collaboration that helps you move forward through the complexity. Through years of research and “on the ground” experience, we have identified an approach that helps you deal with the complex issues you face in 21st century collaborations. This path is built on assumptions about the work to be done together.

Assumption #1: In collaborative action, human interactions generate patterns. Those patterns determine the quality of the collaboration, itself. Collaborative groups come together as complex adaptive systems. As they work, the character and nature of initial interactions set the tone (pattern) for subsequent work together. Initial meetings that are tense and combative shape those patterns for later meetings. Initial meetings that are quiet, with little engagement, shape future patterns. Interrupting and changing established patterns can be difficult. Shifting patterns to make them more useful requires intentional and focused action.

On the other hand, when you lead or convene a collaboration, you can set conditions to invite deeper engagement and productive discourse. When you do, you are better positioned to maintain productive patterns that will move your group toward its goals. 

How will you intentionally set these conditions in your own collaborations?

Assumption #2: Successful collaboration requires participants to stand in inquiry. In HSD we use inquiry to set conditions for powerful and progressive discourse. We stand in inquiry when we:

  • Turn judgment into curiosity
  • Turn disagreement into shared exploration
  • Turn defensiveness into self-reflection
  • Turn assumptions into questions

When you stand in inquiry, you invite multiple voices, and you listen with openness. You can find ways to establish normative truths to guide your share action. This level of openness can also lead to transparency and system coherence that shapes patterns of trust and positive engagement.

How will you set conditions in your collaboration to support ongoing inquiry?

Assumption #3:  Collaborative action is more productive when collaborators build adaptive capacity in their interactions. Adaptive capacity is the ability to use HSD concepts, models, and methods to see, understand, and influence your system. In HSD we use iterative, ongoing cycles of observation, reflection, and action (Adaptive Action) to shift patterns of interaction and decision making as they emerge. We rely on Pattern Logic to inform each step of Adaptive Action.

Adaptive capacity reveals that many challenging problems in your collaboration are, in fact, patterns of behavior and interaction. HSD gives you the tools to deal with those patterns. Dealing with challenging patterns allows you to move forward in collaborative planning work.

How can you use Adaptive Action and Pattern Logic to turn problems into patterns you can understand and influence?

Collaboration is critically important in times of limited resources and expanding need, complex challenges, and polarization. At the same time, useful collaboration becomes more challenging as issues and questions become more complex. Productive collaborative action that builds resilience in your systems calls for a new set of skills and insights. HSD helps you see your complex problems as patterns that you can influence.

For even more information about this approach, join us in our next Adaptive Action Lab, Collaboration and Adaptive Action: Build Connections for Powerful Action. It will be held online on December 6 and 14, from 1p - 4p (CST).

If you can’t join us there, join our FREE Live Virtual Workshops. The next one, Incurable Curiosity: Pay Attention Today to Plan for a Future You Can’t Control, is December 6, 2018, from 11a - 12n (CST). To register, follow this link. However it happens, stay in touch!

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