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Collaboration is rich, but we’re not there yet…

Published on March 1, 2013 by in Uncategorized

Yesterday, I was at ID’péro, a cool event from ID-Campus in Liège. I was given 10 minutes to talk about my improv stuff, while 3 other speakers were going to have it about Agile (Nicolas from Belighted), Business Model Canvas (Dominique Siblet) and Teleworking (Loic and Vincenzo from The Smart Company)… We were introduced by University of Liège’s recteur, Bernard Rentier, which was quite an honour for such an “alternative” event. The evening helped me elborate a bit on my vision so I wanted to frame it here again so I don’t loose it…

The future will be collaborative. Well it seems. Collaborative economy, collaborative design, even collaborative competition… Open Source, Open Data, Open Spaces… Co-working, co-cooking, co-driving, co-everything. Many companies are now focusing all innovation efforts on collaborative initiatives. Many projects are now running agile methodologies (of which core values are about collaboration, with peers and clients), running lots of collaborative creativity techniques to foster innovation. Or at least that’s what they say. That’s how it’s trendy to describe your innovation process. And I believe, and I hope, they are right. Because I like the future this is going to build, if people really make the switch (see this previous post about this).

But hey, wait a minute. Don’t you have in mind one of those boring meetings where the group was making things just more difficult without making results smarter? I have dozens of these, and so do you. And, have you been watching on those open forums on newspapers websites? While the hope was to foster constructive discussion around the news, it turns out to be, to say the least, deceiveing. To say more, it’s sometimes an offense to human nature. Those two simple examples show that, while collaborative stuff are promising, wer’e not there yet. Well, at least not most of us.

Whether in companies or in the society, a majority has not made the switch yet. We’re still in the old mode. Competition, individualism, hierarchy, closed mind, fear, individual reward mechanisms, intellectual property, etc. So, its fine to have consultants to come to you and try funny games to have you produce great results as a team. However, he can only be as good as your team is ready to accept the new rules.

When using improv in the first place, my main goal is to have the team understand the new rules. And live by these rules, to let them penetrate inside. Indeed, improv is nothing else than pure collaborative creativity at work. The content does not matter (for good content you go to plain theatre, right?). What matters is the magic of people who can be creative just because they are a group who works with the new rules. And improvisers know these rules since ages. They have set them in the stone of their discipline, starting with the famous “yes, and”. But they have also prepared hundreds of exercises to train themselves to live by the rules. So the beauty is: we just have to reuse them.

My message is clear: Collaboration is very rich and rewarding and I love it, but it’s not trivial, it’s even quite difficult, it takes time and energy. My last personal acount of this is my participation in a co-housing project. So giving new tools to people is not enough. You have to give new skill sets too everyone: the leader, the manager and the doer. And you have to care about the environment you create around this, because it will by no mean look like the old one. Whatever the new tools you bring in (Agile, Business Model Canvas, Virtual Desktops — to refer to my 3 excellent co-speakers), the hard part will be how humans will use them to build something together rather than fighting each other. So, use these tools, they are great. But do something about the people who are supposed to use them, be it improv or whatever comes to your innovative mind…

 
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