Why Collaborative Advantage matters

This post was first published on my old 'Pollin8or's Blog' site (30/Nov/2018). Collaborative Advantage, a phrase coined by Siv Vangen and Chris Huxham in 1989, is the compelling argument for investing time and effort into partnership work.  The Ubiquity University slide below cites a UNESCO study ranking collaborative skills as the most important for effectively addressing problems in the context of complex systems. At the time of writing, I haven’t found an website dedicated to the promotion of generic partnership skills and the art of collaboration.  There’s plenty of organisational guidance for stakeholders on the subject, and good resources scattered among the pages of excellent things like the Participatory Learning and Action Guide but the only knowledge base for learning, exchange and improvement of the collaborative working/ partnership practices I’ve found so far is this one for charities by the NCVO. In the meantime – here’s a set of notes based mainly on insights from Elizabeth Lank’s  excellent book ‘Collaborative Advantage’ from...
Collaborative Advantage 2 - Blog

Collaborative Advantage

Earlier this year I felt very pleased with myself for having come up with the phrase' Collaborative Advantage'.  The phrase came to me in the context of conversations about competitive advantage, which I argued was only part of the story, and the weaker part at that.  My theme was (and is) that the most successfully competitive people are not the egoists, but the magnanimous. I mentioned the idea to several people over the course of about 10 days, developing the idea as I warmed to my theme, thinking myself really rather clever. Deciding I should write something about Collaborative Advantage, I sat at this machine and googled the phrase, just in case somebody had thought of it before. Of course they had!  Twelve years ago, Elizabeth Lank wrote 'Collaborative Advantage - how organisations win together by working together' which is pretty good but doesn't acknowledge Jeffrey Dyer's 'Collaborative Advantage - winning through extended supplier networks' published in 2000. ...

The Achilles Heel of Strong Leadership

Strong leadership is generally seen as a good thing, presented with the unspoken assumption that the alternative is weak. But this assumption contains a devastating flaw.  The Achilles heel of ‘strong leadership’, is that it’s very easy to cross the fine line from intelligence to belligerence. The top brass of the First World War were undoubtedly ‘strong’ – sending millions Over The Top to pointlessly certain death. They may seem like dinosaurs from another era, derided for their myopia, but their attitude was the same as ‘The Lady’s not for turning’ mantra that inspires so many Thatcher fans in business and in politics today. Unflinchingly ‘strong’ leadership though, requires the courage to acknowledge when things are going wrong. Unless our strong leaders have a ‘U turn policy’, their fear of being seen to be weak can overpower their intelligence. My U turn policy would look like this: ‘If new evidence comes to light,...
Great Wisdom - Blog

Report from ASP’s Great Wisdom Gathering

Here's what happened at ASP's Great Wisdom Gathering in Henley-on-Thames, facilitated by Mike Zeidler. The gathering was attended by people from Sussex to Dorset. The rules of Open Space state very clearly that 'whoever comes are the right people', and so it was. Of the 17 due to attend, 12 made it, so there was more great wisdom than great numbers. Certainly the quality of the conversations was very good, and the topics covered wide-ranging.  There was a theme around joining things up, system models and collaboration, another about personal support, and a third about our relationships with nature. The AGM turned out to be a great demonstration about the way ASP works as a learning organisation modelled as far as possible on 'the way nature works'. The form is self-evidently an association of people concerned about practical and applied sustainability. The clearly stated activities are all about supporting, challenging and connecting people on...
Challenge - Blog

What’s YOUR Challenge?

Got a vision you want to achieve collaboratively? Inclusive leadership is incredibly rewarding, but it's easy to get it wrong. People often assume there's a straight trade-off between efficiency (or speed) and inclusivity, because it takes more time to sift through ideas, prioritise, agree actions and decide how to see them through.  It's certainly true we all get tangled up in problem solving from time to time, and the potential for getting truly tied up in knots goes up dramatically when more than a few people are involved. When things get more complex, they tend to get a LOT more complicated very fast. Each team member will have their own thinking preferences, and organisational culture/leadersip style will also the number of factors you're trying to take into account - the culture layers of it's also the variety of thinking preferences and in every team. Things get messy, stuck or even break down completely unless there...

Art of Cosmic Thinking In Action

On July 22nd 2016, we put on the UK’s second ‘Art of Cosmic Thinking’ event, building on feedback from the debut in Manchester back in May.   The word cosmic comes from the word cosmos, meaning ‘the universe as a complex and orderly system’ and the talk explored how to hold the tension between keeping things simple and keeping things real. Having stimulated minds with this introduction, we created an Open Space for everyone there to explore their own ideas. Click here to see what went on.

The Art of Cosmic Thinking

Life can seem very random when intuition and creativity play big parts in what we do.  Mike Zeidler explains how to spot the patterns which make inner purpose and overall direction clearer on Friday 22nd July at 4pm in Redbrick House, Bristol.  It's a free event - Click here for full details and tickets.