Most groups have at least one person who is motivated to help their group get better at collaboration, regardless of their role. I call these folks, “collaboration practitioners.” They are the people I am most interested in empowering and supporting. The more I can help them, the more groups I can impact.
In order to support collaboration practitioners, I need to find them. “Collaboration practitioner” is not everyday parlance. Most people have no idea what I’m talking about when I use this term. Moreover, many people who play this role are not doing it formally. It’s not in their job description, and they may not even realize they’re doing it.
Self-awareness is the first step. It’s hard to seek help if you don’t have a name for what you’re doing. Having that name makes it easier to find and learn from others who play similar roles.
In the past, I’ve played a small role in connecting collaboration practitioners with each other. For the most part, it’s been a selfish endeavor. When I first got started in this business, I was desperate to find and learn from other practitioners. When I started finding them, I held onto them for dear life. It took me several years before I stopped feeling isolated. Ever since, my community has been an invaluable support structure.
Weaving some of these relationships together came naturally to me. After all, it’s one of the muscles needed to be great at collaboration. At the same time, I intentionally shied away from spending too much time doing this. I wanted to focus on going deeper, not broader.
This year. I want to invest more of my time building a network of practitioners. It’s always been an important part of my strategy, and it feels like the right moment to prioritize it.
I also want to be open and transparent about how I’m trying to do it in order to model network principles. As the field has professionalized, I’ve felt a narrowness in how many practitioners interpret and practice network principles. I want to offer a counter to this.
The beauty of trying to model network principles in my own field rather than for a client is that I have fewer constraints. I can be much more creative about what I do and how I do it, and I can be much more candid about my experiences.
Sometimes (hopefully more often than not), I’ll be successful. Other times, I won’t. I want to show both. This work is hard. Pretending that it’s not is not only dishonest, it’s a disservice to those of us trying to learn and improve.
I’ll start by sharing a series of blog posts over the next few weeks about past experiences, surfacing and exploring important principles through these stories. I’ll then start sharing what I’m thinking and doing about this new network. A lot of those posts will be half-baked, because… well, these things take a while to bake. I hope that this half-bakedness serves as an invitation, an opportunity for you to shape this network as well through your thinking, ideas, and participation.