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Collaboration PeakCollaboration

20161204153650 cdent  

A term used to describe those moments in the past when everything seemed to fall into place and a group just worked. Having peak collaboration usually results in hunting for it later, and making you grumpy.

The following is in response to a colleague saying "that's not peak collaboration" and Chris Dent feeling obliged to redirect. See also Choosing to Know Implicit Goals.

Unfortunately "peak collaboration" has very little to do with being nice. It's basically doing whatever it takes to allow a few processes to work, each a prereq for the next:

  • Create an environment where SharedLanguage can be formed.

    SharedLanguage is when the members of the group are using the same words to mean the same things. This is very rare. It's likely when you say "foobar" you mean something very different from what someone else means.

    Unfortunately creating SharedLanguage is often an exclusionary process. The following is common: If you don't talk the talk you can't walk the walk, so get out. Assiduous attention to stigmergic artifacts and education can help.

  • Use that SharedLanguage to create SharedUnderstanding.

    Basically this is establishing some mutualism: We hold these truths to be self evident...

  • Use that SharedUnderstanding to create SharedGoals.

    A group can only get things done well if they are working on the same things, where those things are born out of the shared understanding. Collaboration is cancelled out (or at least less "peak") when there is belief that the goal is shared, but it actually isn't because there isn't shared language.

    A shared goal is likely to have existed in some abstract form before a group has achieved shared understanding. The process plucks it out of abstraction land and makes it concrete.

In my experience this process works best with small groups (under ten, five is the magic number) where the group starts larger and the people who fail to get the language go away. It's usually a pretty ugly process: under performing proto-members are left out to die.