I define collaboration as people working together – sometimes by choice, sometimes not. Sometimes we collaborate to jump-start creativity; other times the focus is simply on getting things done. In each case, people in a good collaboration accomplish more than the group’s most talented members could achieve on their own.
Twyla Tharp, The Collaborative Habit
Today’s employees, at all levels, spend 50% more time collaborating than they did 20 years ago.
Amy Edmondson, The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth
I’m well into my reading of The Fearless Organization, one of my two selections for the March 1 First Friday Book Synopsis. It strikes me that we are in a moment of “we are going to have to change the way we work.”
I remember when I read Quiet by Susan Cain, about how the moves from farms to cities, which gave birth to Dale Carnegie and the need to become perpetual interacting salespersons, beckoned forth a new set of skills needed. From Quiet:
“In the days when pianos and bathrooms were luxuries,” Carnegie writes, “men regarded ability in speaking as a peculiar gift, needed only by the lawyer, clergyman, or statesman. Today we have come to realize that it is the indispensable weapon of those who would forge ahead in the keen competition of business.”
Carnegie’s metamorphosis from farmboy to salesman to public-speaking icon is also the story of the rise of the Extrovert Ideal.
The new economy calls for a new kind of man—a salesman, a social operator, someone with a ready smile, a masterful handshake, and the ability to get along with colleagues while simultaneously outshining them.
(Read my blog post: The Birth of Dale Carnegie – A Fascinating Account, from Quiet by Susan Cain).
Now that “ability to get along” needs to be enhanced and expanded, into the actual work of continual interactive/interacting collaboration. Look carefully at these words, from Edmondson’s book:
Few products or services today are created by individuals acting alone. And few individuals simply do their work and then hand the output over to other people who do their work, in a linear, sequential fashion. Instead, most work requires people to talk to each other to sort out shifting interdependencies.
So, in other words, the ability to have intelligible, purpose-directed, ongoing, never-ending conversations; the ability to listen and adapt after listening; the ability to work in collaboration, is a modern day survival skill.
Her book is about the need for psychological safety – note her subtitle: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth. This is needed BECAUSE we have to become very, very good at collaborating.
And, by the way, psychological safety is the human way to treat people well.
I’ve got a hunch that my synopsis of The Fearless Organization is going to be useful.