I’ve been doing a lot of thinking – and worrying – about collaboration. I think the ability to collaborate effectively is becoming ever more essential – yet it’s also often hard to do.
In business two trends combine to put more focus on collaboration skills. First, the plethora of downsizing and outsourcing means that many brands are increasingly just fronts for networks of smaller companies and operators. Second, the power of the net makes it easier and easier – at least theoretically – for folks to work remotely and in shifting alliances.
Ourhouse is, in effect, a portal into my own personal network of people and ideas. So I’m involved in a whole string of collaborations. These include Beyond Branding, Mutual Marketing, and the Clarity Partnership. In addition, I am part of a group of six Improv practitioners, in Europe and the US, who are collaborating to devise and share ideas for workshops and facilitation in the areas of teamwork, creativity and relationship building. Then there is my role as an editor of Knowledgeboard, a European knowledge management website and on top of that, I manage the website for Improvinbiz.
Maintaining momentum in each of these is challenging. It’s very easy to start a collaboration, but maintaining them and resolving the conflicts inherent in them requires focus and effort. I sometimes worry that I’ve become a plate spinner, with my attention divided between too many different projects. Yet I also believe that what I’m doing is what we’re all going to have to do in this networked economy – learn to work effectively and with passion in many different groups concurrently.
And crucially, I have built real human connections with an array of very smart people in different parts of the world. The range of talents I can tap into is far greater than I ever enjoyed working in conventional companies.
And what is crucial in sustaining these networks is not some computer model or numbers-based matrix. It’s my willingness to engage in conversations and relationships with my fellow human beings. And its these “soft” skills that need more attention – in my humble opinion – in the network economy.