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Friday 19 July 2013

Be masters of the paradox

The future will be knowledge and experience rich but increasingly, the current fracking bonanza not withstanding, resource and materials poor. There will be more people and organisations able to do good in the world but also more conflict about what exactly 'good' is. All these extra people with have immense potential but they will also need to be fed and housed.

So the future can be summed up as both hopeful and scary, and it is people working effectively in collaboration that will help realise the former and avoid the latter.

In order to survive and thrive in this increasingly complex and demanding future world partnerships and collaborations will need to be:

  1. Pioneering pathfinders
  2. Masters of the paradox
  3. Challenging and disruptive
  4. Influential players
  5. Socially enterprising
  6. Populated by a new breed of collaborative worker
  7. Purposefully transformative

2. Masters of the paradox

Collaborations of the future will need to manage the following two key paradoxes:

  1. The need to be both local and global.
  2. The need to be both separate and together. 

Collaborations will need to utilise online technologies and other means to search out and attract the knowledge, resources and expertise needed to address the increasingly complex and challenging problems they will face; they will need a global (or at least national) reach. But in order to be relevant and make a real difference on the ground they will need a strong and locally focused presence.

The Wikipedia approach enables global expertise to come together and collaborate in creating and editing a wiki page. It also enables that expertise to splice into groupings with more local or specific interests, be these geographical or disciplinary. The social enterprise movement now has a fast growing global presence, but its success is deeply rooted in local action. The United Nations approaches its work in a very similar way.          

Collaborations will also need to tap into the unique creative power generated by their attempts to reconcile partners' separate interests, goals and perspectives with the need for unified action. Given the time and space to think and act both separately and together, partners can significantly increase the diversity and quality of ideas, so maximising opportunities for truly powerful innovation.

The Wikipedia approach enables a person to work on a page separately, without influence or interference from others. This encourages and enables the individual expression necessary for generating diverse ideas. Wikipedia also brings all contributions together in a structured and managed way that enables others to edit and comment upon a page (without interrupting an individual's work), so encouraging the collaborative group to work towards improving the overall quality of a page. Intel's approach to collaborative working (see Case Study 3 page 59) explicitly addresses the separate needs and goals of those it collaborates with, creating very clear firewalls between what is shared and worked on together and what remains unshared and separate. The dynamic discussions about where the firewalls need to be and the form they need to take can lead to novel, unexpected and flexible connections and groupings that provide the time and space for diverse ideas and approaches to emerge.

See future posts for explanations of the five aspects that remain.

For more about collaboration and partnership go to: Sleeping-with-the-Enemy-Achieving-Collaborative-Success-2nd-Edition.

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