Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Beyond Community to Collaboration and Collective Intelligence

I have previously written on the importance of building community in our team environments. Several posts have focused on community building. For example:

Building Community - Trust Begets Trust
Cites the work of Kouzes and Posner in The Leadership Challenge where the authors identify trust as a foundation for community and teamwork.

Building Community: Thank you as a way of leading
Proposes gratitude as an easy and remarkably powerful step in building the type of community that is essential for successful teams.

Building Community with Giving
Suggests that giving and service are key ingredients to building community across teams.

I stand by my previous work. Community is important but as a friend of mine suggests, simple community, as described in my previous posts, is "bumper sticker" material. The real objective for teams is to move beyond community to collaboration, collective action, and collective intelligence . Community might be part of the foundation but your real intent is to lead your team to great collaborative accomplishment and creativity beyond the capabilities of a single individual.

In future weeks, I plan to focus my attention on collaboration, collective action, and collective intelligence. I intend to share the findings of my journey with my fellow quiet leaders.

One of the stops in my journey this past week validated the importance of collaboration for the modern organization and the leadership that is required in order to foster collaboration. Linda Dunkel and Christina Arena in the white paper, Leading in the Collaborative Organization describe the importance,

Collaborative leadership is at the center of an important shift in a business world increasingly moving away from autocratic leadership to more decentralized models.....collaboration is an essential tool for the new kind of business leader — the facilitative leader — one who engages relevant stakeholders in solving problems collaboratively and works to build a more collaborative culture in his or her organization or community.

In their work, Dunkel and Arena also dispel the common myths of collaboration. They refute four myths:

  1. Collaboration slows everything down. They maintain that the prework and consensus that naturally accompanies collaboration reduces churn and roadblocks and will speed innovation and time to market.
  2. Collaboration makes leaders soft or weak. Collaborative leaders actually share power and recognize that the best decisions are "often made with the input of others with specialized expertise."
  3. Collaboration cannot be taught. "If people embrace the underlying assumption that collaboration is valuable and desirable, then the behaviors and methods for collaborating can be taught."
  4. Collaboration can't be sustained. The authors recognize several high and sustained growth companies that cultivate collaboration. Companies like IKEA, Starbucks, and Eileen Fisher are recognized for the collaborative environments.
I'd like to reuse a great quotation from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu that speaks to the relationship between collaborative action and leadership,
As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence.... When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!
I hope that Lead Quietly readers will collaborate with me on this study. Please comment and contribute.

Thanks for reading. Please collaborate and lead quietly.


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