Far too often, the starting points of many collaborations are things not people. Things that are made or written down appear first and are put first in people's minds. This causes many difficulties: difficulties that can transform a promising cradle of new thinking and innovation into a dreadful basket case of deadlines and dead ends.
That new IT system that joins everything up: it breaks everything down. That agreement between organisations: it causes disagreement between people. That rationalisation plan: it leads to irrational outcomes.
But what if people were put before things? What if a collaborative initiative was perceived as a social construct (a supportive space within which people were encouraged to interact and cooperate) rather than as a mess of systems and agreements (a complex maze within which people struggled to find a way forward or, at worst, a way out)?
People would ask different questions. That new IT system: how will it sustain and build relationships and trust between people? That agreement between organisations: how will it affect the existing and future understandings between people? That rationalisation plan: how will it enhance people's effectiveness?
And the answers gained to the above questions, together with other related insights and actions, would protect and enrich existing and future relationships between people and help create an innovative collaboration capable of great progress and achievements.
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