You rarely achieve anything on your own but don’t be seduced by the myth that ‘friends create great stuff’.
You don’t collaborate to build your social network, you do it because you want to achieve something.
But some people select collaborators like they do friends. They like them and it’s comfortable being around them.
But it causes problems. Criticism is avoided. Groupthink is unchallenged. Personal feelings are protected. Getting on becomes more important than getting anywhere.
Finding your next direction requires a range of skills. They can be anything from creative thinking, project management to building a network or clarifying your goals. You won’t be good at all of them. Get some help.
The origin of the word ‘collaborate’, comes from the 13th and 14th century in western Europe. It means ‘’confer with the enemy’’ and described how the dissident and the insurgent worked together to overthrow the king.
Collaboration is about a shared agenda where all parties put their personal priorities aside and openly contribute without fear or favour. It will have periods of conflict and it won’t always be comfortable.
That’s why we don’t naturally do it. We tend to avoid conflict by being ‘nice’ or we take charge, set the agenda and delegate. Neither is collaboration.
The best way to get productive collaboration is to pull together a bunch of misfits. People who have very different views and experiences.
On November 13th, 1993, the production of Toy Story, the award-winning iconic animated film series, was failing. The script was bad and the producers threatened to cancel it. It wasn’t until they added rocket scientists, adult psychologists, circus puppeteers and pricing analysts to the team of scriptwriters, animators and editors, that it started to work.
Whatever your endeavours, collaborate with people that bring challenging, unusual or ‘weird’ approaches. For example, football coaches know team building, crisis counsellors know how to defuse difficult emotions, artists and athletes know about self-motivation and construction project managers know about setting interim performance goals.
Think outside the box.
So what do you do with them?
Get traction with a 4×4.
It can be a 5×5 or 3×3, it doesn’t matter, the principles are the same – the smallest number of people, with the right skills, creating something fast.
I wanted to do a good news documentary in Papua New Guinea. I had no contacts or story ideas, so I set up a 4×4. I managed budgets, crew and equipment. An anthropologist found contacts in PNG. A story advisor checked suitability for a documentary film. A logistics coordinator got permission and access into the country. It took months rather than years to start the project.
You can do a 4×4 on any initiative. It can be finding a new role, working on a business idea, creating a portfolio lifestyle or learning a new skill.
It starts with you. Be realistic about what you’re missing and be clear about what you need – the people, the skills, the experience, the relationships, the personalities. Work out the way they will work together. Set the timeframe and the goals.
The power of 4×4 lies in what happens. You expand your capability by multiples. You get more commitment because you don’t waste time. You respect and value individual expertise. You inspire with clear goals.
Find misfits and go on a 4×4 adventure and see where it takes you.