The Chaos of Collaboration

“Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups…it is the rule.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

I finally figured out why so many people, so much of the time, would simply rather do things themselves than in collaboration with other people. Let me re-phrase that: I finally figured out why I, so much of the time, would simply rather do things myself than in collaboration with other people.

Collaboration is chaotic, unruly and messy. It quickly gets completely out of control. Boundaries aren’t set. Expectations aren’t clear. Roles are undefined. Needs go unfulfilled. It’s enough to make you crazy. Collaboration is so often a Pandora’s box of good intentions which, once opened, is impossible to close.

The problem with this, of course, is that nothing truly meaningful gets done alone. Sure, you’ve got your painters and your writers whose accomplishments are works of singular creative energy. The work of the world, however – the work that produces goods and services, creates jobs and feeds families – is not done by creative artists. It is done by people working together in organizations who, if they don’t cooperate and collaborate, don’t get much done. And, when that stuff doesn’t get done, other people suffer – quality erodes and jobs are lost.

Furthermore, there are plenty of organizations in which the stuff gets done in spite of poor cooperation and collaborative efforts that are no more than lip-service being paid by “command and control” managers who think employees are too stupid to know better. Do you work there? Do you want to?

It is the rare organization, the one attempting to become truly great through a culture of meaningful relationships and learning, where the stuff gets done – the product designed, made and shipped; the service provided efficiently and effectively – because “we” matters more than “me.”

Do you work there? Do you want to?


© 2010 David Berry

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