By Jason Menard
A friend whose voice I respect on Twitter as one rooted in common sense and decorum recently attended a conference on growing her market. One of the takeaways, she Tweeted, was that the most common word heard at the conference was “collaboration.”
As in, collaborative efforts between organizations to foster growth; as in collaboration amongst different groups to maximize strengths and fortify weaknesses; as in collaboration to reach a mutually beneficial goal.
Collaboration: whether you’re talking business or politics, it’s almost always the solution.
Unfortunately, too many of us see collaboration — and its necessary ingredient compromise — as dirty words.
We went from an 80s generation that grew up with the Greed is Good/Win at All Costs mentality that bordered on a pathological social view, to its equally negative, but polar opposite post-90s concept of “Everything you do is praise-worthy.” The resulting marriage has created a number of people who are confident that they know what’s best for all — and feel no need to go beyond their limited circle for challenges or verification.
We set up a number of barriers in the name of engagement. Whether technological, geographic, or social, we’ve established frameworks that actively repel outside input. Sending a survey over Twitter may garner you a response, but only within a certain group — what about seniors, those for whom English is not a first language, those who are not within that loop? When discussions are held exclusively in one geographic region — in London, that’s usually downtown — it limits people’s opportunities to participate.
And let’s not even start with language. The vocabulary of discourse for any ideas outside of a certain spectrum is discouraging at best — downright insulting at worst. Whether it’s using military terminology to rally those to your cause or steeling yourself for every tete-a-tete as if it were a fight, we subconsciously established personal ground rules that predetermine that anything less that a comprehensive knock out shouldn’t be considered a victory.
There’s another challenge with collaboration — it’s hard work. True collaboration means bringing the message to the right people in the way that’s best for them. Maybe it’s parking your butt in the food court at Cherryhill Mall to spend a few hours talking with seniors, because that’s how they’re more comfortable. Maybe it’s doing the same at White Oaks, Argyle, and Masonville. Maybe it’s getting on the phone and calling various constituents, or mailing out questionnaires and surveys.
Whatever it is, you have to get the message out to the people directly. According to its own stats, only three per cent of the population engaged in ReThink [editor’s note. This was changed from an initial publishing of .03. Honestly, I forgot to multiply my percentage calculation by 100] — a worthwhile exercise, but limited in its mandate-establishing potential, yet some are willing to take its recommendations as gospel. Yet nearly 40 per cent of the entire electorate voted in the last municipal election — yet some will have the audacity to say that this council should be effectively neutered until the next election?
It’s that “win at all costs/I’ve always been told my ideas and efforts are great” bastard child that’s restricting our growth. When you hear what you want to hear, why actually listen to someone else?
Because that’s true collaboration.
It’s scary. It challenges your long-held tenets and beliefs. It forces you to think about your stances as part of a larger populace. And, most frighteningly, it may prove that you’re wrong.
Negotiation and compromise are not bad things, but successive generations have been told that their thoughts are the only ones that matter. They will trot out sayings to the effect of, “People saying no just don’t understand. Go your own way!” or “True success comes from forging ahead and chasing your goals.”
But those are exclusionary ideals.
True success comes from ensuring that everyone in your community is happy. They may not all be completely happy, but working together, collaboratively, we can find mutually beneficial goals and projects. We can solve many of the problems for all of the people as opposed to all of the problems for a select few.
It’s not easy. It’s hard work. And it challenges us to rethink our positions in light of how they affect others.
The fictional character d’Artagnan defined it perfectly when looking at his friends Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. “All for one and one for all,” was the mantra he coined, and it embodies true success — a collaboration of all working towards a common goal; a goal that benefits all.
Collaboration and compromise are hard. They require maturity and understanding, and they demand an empathy towards the needs and desires of those outside your immediate circle.
They’re not dirty words, but I swear that they’re the only thing that’s going to work.