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Monday 31 July 2017

This is how a collaborative person works: 27. do not allow engagement to morph into being all things to all people

(This post draws heavily upon the experiences of Paul Macalindin as described in his book Upbeat, which chronicles his inspiring work with the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq. To read more posts in this series go to the March to August 2017 Blog Archive on your right.)

'Jo asked me to sit down at the piano and talk on camera about the NYOI. We did two takes: my story of how it all began in take one, and then the version Jo asked me to adapt, which painted Zuhal as a fairy-tale heroine who singlehandedly created the orchestra. This, I felt, rather confirmed my doubts.'

From Upbeat: the Story of the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq by Paul Macalindin

The above quotation is short but telling: it demonstrates that the ability to engage with different partners in different ways at different times can easily morph into being all things to all people. Individuals can quickly lose themselves within the multiple worlds and contexts of their partners: their words, actions and the way they present themselves twisting and fragmenting into often uncomfortable positions and shapes in response to the perceived needs and demands of others.

Integrity and sense of self dissolve; the uniqueness of an individual's mission and activities become increasingly diluted within others' needs and whims. 

This is not an outcome anyone seeking to challenge the status quo and create something new and innovative wants to realise. There is no surer way of becoming part of the thing you are seeking to change than by being blown here and there by the whimful winds of others who, for the most part, will belong to the established way of thinking and doing things.

As discussed in an earlier post, the way to avoid becoming lost within others' worlds is to become a social and cultural sponge: to be able to soak-up and adopt some of the surrounding social and cultural ways of doing things but at the same time avoid the uniqueness of your role and the clarity of your purpose being dissolved as a consequence.                        
Lastly, individuals possessing more or less power than those with which they work also contributes to loss of integrity and some people becoming chess pieces or even playthings within others' worlds. This aspect and its consequences for the health and effectiveness of collaborative initiatives is explored here.        

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