Collaboration Patterns – Part 1

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to be more effective at collaborating, usually in the context of a meeting. The line blurs for me there, because partly I think it’s just a meeting issue – but let me share and then see what you think.

Let me start with an example. Recently I was on a call and someone threw out an idea, something very different, way out of the box. It didn’t seem like a good idea, some very obvious challenges to making it work. On the other hand, how can you collaborate if you require all ideas to be fully baked first? I’ve seen and participated in a few of these discussions over the years and they can frustrate everyone present.

I think is a common pattern, and I have a proposal for a solution that is yet untried. It goes like this:

  • Someone has an idea (big or small, plain or whacky – doesn’t matter)
  • Contact a group of people that would be relevant to making it work or approving it with the very broad idea labeled “DRAFT”, and ask for two volunteers, one who loves the idea and wants to help make it better, the other one someone that hates the idea or is willing to take the contrarian view
  • Build a plan that includes the best of the ideas and addresses key concerns. Doesn’t mean you have to give in to the contrarian, just that you have to take the points and speak to them.
  • Now, finally, present that to the broader group for more discussion (and provide it to them in advance!)

Think about how that changes the tone of the discussion. I can see right away that they’ve considered problems and outlined ideas for dealing with them, or explaining why they aren’t as big a problem as I might think. It certainly doesn’t mean that the idea will be approved, but it allows the discussion to happen at a higher level.

More tomorrow!