Why collaborating with others starts with "collaborating with yourself"

Last week I wrote a piece called, "Diversity ... Obama are you listening." I wanted to take the topic of diversity and stretch it past just physical attributes; race, gender, ethnic origin and sexual persuasion. I wanted to bring attention to what I think its true definition is ... diversity of the mind. While race, gender and ethnicity definitely contribute to one's world view ... there's a lot more at play than that.

I believe sociological factors have as much to do with who a person is as genetics. It's another take on the age-old debate of "nature versus nurture." How can you tell me someone spending their life in New York or Chicago doesn't have different views than one living in North Dakota. Or what about different economic worlds, or being homeless. Two years ago I moved from Los Angeles to a small town in Montana. I may as well have moved to the moon.

These days collaboration is all in vogue. It appears that decision-making by the many will help show the way to the light. I suppose for some organizations that may be true. But really, doesn't it all comes down to implementation.

The whole point behind collaboration is that different points of views working together will create a synergy where the result will be better than that produced by just one. Seems to make sense. In practice ... maybe not so much. If you talk to any programmer they'll tell you if you want to have a project take longer, bring in more people to work on it. The same can be true in other types of collaboration. Just by having more minds work on something doesn't necessarily make it better or happen faster. Often its just the opposite.

Well how do we make collaboration work? This is where a diversity of thought comes in. It's this diversity that will determine whether a collaboration yields synergy or just a substandard effort that takes twice as long.

"I have found that all positions men take in their beliefs are profoundly influenced by thousands of small, often imperceptible experiences that slowly accumulate to form a sum total of choices and decisions.” ~ Alvin Lustig

Ultimately, a person is a collection of experiences. These experiences are influenced by a plethora of factors; race, gender, geography, income level, and so on. The success of a collaboration is dependent on assembling a truly diverse collection experiences, all lending their unique interpretations to the end result. Whether or person is black or white, male or female means little if their experiences are the same. Two years ago I had my eyes opened when discussing the economy with a homeless man collecting cans and bottles for recycling.

Today on my morning walk I ran across a homeless gentleman collecting cans and bottles from a dumpster. I stopped and started a conversation with him which lasted about fifteen minutes.

We talked about a lot things - the weather, the oil spill and eventually the economy. Even though all the media outlets we're saying we were coming out of the recession, his take on our economic conditions was that he thought things were getting worse. ”How did you come to that conclusion?” I asked him.

“Well … I see more cheap brands in the dumpsters than I used to. Even last year when things were supposedly worse, people stuck to their expensive stuff. But now it’s changed.”

Interesting, as thought walking away.

Check out the full piece: "Create your Internal Renaissance." Only through the connecting of the seemingly connectable - does true creativity occur. And the broader our range of experiences are, the more likely this connection is to occur.

But what if a collaboration didn't require more than one person. While optimally one would think, the more parties involved, the more experiences and greater the diversity of these experiences. Maybe so. But what if you were limited to just one party ... yourself. If your life consists of living in the same place, associating with only people like yourself - your "self-collaboration" would be pretty boring ... like your life. It's no different from trying to come up with fresh ideas with people who are nothing other than clones of yourself.

"Create your Internal Renaissance." Humans are creatures of habit. We tend to do the same things, associate with same type of people as us - and ultimately are influenced by the same sources as always. CHANGE IT UP!

Get out of your comfort zone. Try going places you don't normally go. If you are a doctor, hang with a plumber. If you're white, talk to a black person. Take the bus sometimes (no people on buses don't bite). If you live on the west side, have dinner on the east side. And most of all - if your old (yes Boomers you are old), get some insight from someone young ... someone that's not your own kid.

Collaborating is a two-way street. Rather than worrying about what others can give to you  ... concentrate on what you are going to give to them. What do you bring to the table?

And what you bring to the table is all about the diversity of your experiences.

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