I'm thinking about...
Everyone loves the fruit of the harvest, but not everyone wants to engage in (the often tough) work/mahi that precedes the harvest.
It's the same with collaborations and partnerships.
Folk love to be part of the success story and partake of the collective fruit that comes forth from the generosity, strength and courage of often a few courageous champions who lead the way. But successful collaborations and partnerships only happen because someone was prepared to get uncomfortable and put in the hard mahi for collective benefit.
I've been revisiting Brene Brown's the Gifts of Imperfection and this quote struck me today
"...symptomatic of our cultural fears. We don't want to get uncomfortable. We want a quick and dirty how to list for happiness."
I think this is true for many things - we we do not want to get uncomfortable and we often avoid conflict at all costs - we just want a quick (and dirty!) how to list for achieving an expressed outcome or desire. Complex opportunities need space and time for inquiry and exploration. We frequently observe that experts disagree (as demonstrated through COVID and across the NZ Three Waters discussions).
This got me thinking about three particular areas that are interwoven into the facilitation of complex collaboration workshops that are often uncomfortable and infrequently talked about openly:
Any you want to add to this list?
Keen to explore these through the week. Watch this space...
Is it all about data?
The future remains uncertain. Any and all models predicting the future are incomplete and subjective.
Yep, we've got a heap more technology and data. But as I heard someone say recently "big data" is a bit like "teenage sex" - lots of promise, until you reach delivery! So whilst there are evident opportunities that we haven't had post previous pandemics - there is also some truth in the comment. Making sense of and meaning from the data is what is needed - but that's really hard when everyone has access to different data sets. This recent HBR article sums it up well - "Digital Transformation is About Talent, Not Technology".
Just like most things, it's less about technology and more about people.
A real risk: Post COVID exhaustion
Our most acute concern should be that the coronavirus pandemic will change very little or nothing at all. That everything changes, but everything stays the same. That is precisely what happened in 2008: We won the war, in the sense that a total economic meltdown was averted, but we lost the peace.
Post COVID exhaustion and anxieties are real. The evidence is all around us.
There have been some good examples of collaboration during the crisis and there will be the customary "hero worship" and some "finger pointing" as we transition out of our homes. In the balances...amongst the opportunities there have been huge losses; mingled with the celebrations, there will be grief and mourning - not everyone has been safe or comfortable or well fed. Here in NZ, without the NGOs and front line service providers rising up, it seems the system would not have coped.
God bless them and all those that have continued to keep the system rolling!
What happens now? Do we just go back to operating in a system that doesn't support collaboration, but requires it? Thinking medium-long term strategy what might be some opportunities? Here are some of my "musings"...
Where are some opportunities?
Collaborative Process for Collective Thinking
Transitioning has to be a deliberative process, steered by collective thinking. Process matters and process has to be centred in people and relationships. We need collaborative processes where all the voices are heard and included. When all the voices are heard - whatever the outcome - it's easier for folk to live with the results, even the ones we disagree with.
Working together we surface the heartbeat of the strategy - everyone owns it and everyone has a responsibility to deliver it. In the end it's all about people and taking time to build deep connections and relationships - whakawhanaungatanga.
No super powers or reliance on hierarchies in this transition phase, please. We need collaborative leaders that empower and facilitate an environment, where solutions emerge - together. Let's invest in this pandemic-inspired emerging leadership muscle. It's a move from the conductor and orchestra approach - to something better aligned to a jazz group. An overriding theme, with riffs and improvisations led organically by a cohesive rhythm felt and enabled through all members in the group, based on mutual respect and trusted relationships.
That means we need confidence in each other, the collective voices and the actions that will emerge out of that trust.
It's time for collaborative strategies - not tweaks at the edges or "shovel ready" projects - but permission and space to develop collaborative regenerative strategies for new futures. It's time to ask the tough questions; to talk about the stuff that matters and bring the variety of voices to the conversation; to think the unthinkable, the out-of-the box stuff that's going to make the difference we collectively yearn for. Incremental changes may bring some improvement, but are unlikely to get us to the "real" opportunities. Adaptive co-design, experimentation and readiness to change will drive us towards the "real" opportunities.
Re-imagining the System
And, that means re-imagining the whole system. It's time to empower the front line service delivery agencies as decision makers - let's not keep getting in their way. The system is designed for stability and is at best clunky, so taking an eco-system perspective in an agile, adaptive way is going to be no mean feat!
But time is of the essence. The opportunities facing us (such as climate change and child poverty) are potentially even bigger than the COVID pandemic. The high risk of post COVID exhaustion may mean a return to the old familiar ways of working and no real change at all. Adaptation has been necessary now and changes in constraints have enabled that, but we still need some longer term major system changes and capability development across sectors to build on what has been started - that's complex and risky, and will require some leadership guts and energy.
It's also going to need intentionality about culture. At the core of most collaboration challenges is a diversity and inclusion agenda - we need all the voices and disciplines. It's important to be open to being challenged and to consider the variety of scenarios.
We're going to need everyone and everything!
We have an unprecedented global opportunity to rekindle hearts and minds - let's not waste it!
Get in touch - Let's talk
So if it's a collaborative approach and strategy that you desire - I'm here to support you.
No silver bullets, just tested collaborative frameworks and approaches that deliver shared value and collective impact.
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