Monday, 21 September 2009

Thinking Together

As I continue to read on the theme of collaborative thinking, a number of key themes do begin to emerge:
NUMBERS are important: The issue of numbers is an interesting one. The more people that are involved, the more "human resources" are available. On the other hand, the scale of the collaboration, particularly if it is voluntary, can result in a great imbalance in contribution between those who do a lot and those who do a little. Collaborative endeavours enable you to harvest the creativity of a large group of people - which is good - but there can be issues of management or governance for a larger group.
NETWORKING enhances collaboration: The networking of smaller groups is not just a convenient way of managing larger numbers. "Small Worlds Networks" provide increases in speed of communication and creativity. New ideas often emerge in the connections between smaller groups. It is the most connected, rather than the most intelligent, who often seem to be the most creative.
SELF-ORGANISATION is essential: Attempts to organise or manage collaboration often end in failure. Teams need to set their own goals and work our how they are to function by themselves. This can be a challenge for larger networks and requires a particular approach to leadership.
Learning takes place in CONVERSATION often resulting in individual action: Collaborative organisations seem not to make decisions very often. Meetings are essential but they tend to take the form of conversations in which ideas, facts and other information is shared. Change takes place at and individual and collective level resulting in consequent individual action. This raises the question of how group decisions can be enforced - and on what level collaborative action is possible.
We need a DUAL ECONOMY: Collaboration works best when it takes place on a voluntary basis. On the other hand, we also need a dependable and equitable "resource" economy to provide infrastructure - and basic human needs. This suggests a dual economy of paid and unpaid individuals co-existing in a creative tension. Such a dual economy is already emerging in many spheres of life, including media, information sciences and the Church. Collaboration makes failure cheap - which is great for creativity - but failure is not an option when it comes to individual or organisational survival...
TECHNOLOGY affects collaboration: It is important not to overlook the impact of our technology on our ability to think, share and act together. This has always been the case, but the current explosion of "social tools" is transforming our ability to collaborate.
SPIRITUALITY should not be overlooked: I am using the term "spirituality" here in a fairly loose way - perhaps in a similar way to the term "world view". Our understanding of the basic realities of human existance and the way we view the world can have a marked impact on our ability to collaborate and the way we understand collaboration. Many spiritual traditions regard each human being as containing, in some way, an expression of the divine. Some world views regard human beings as "fallen" - others as instinct-driven animals. Our spiritualities are therefore significant for the way we work together.

These, I think, are the big brush themes that I need to explore further. What do you think? Have I missed anything?

4 comments:

Peter Leeson said...

You definitely want to read this book on collaborative thinking: "the Wisdom of Crowds" - see "http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.co.uk%2Fs%3Fie%3DUTF8%26x%3D0%26ref%255F%3Dnb%255Fss%255F0%255F15%26y%3D0%26field-keywords%3Dthe%2520wisdom%2520of%2520crowds%26url%3Dsearch-alias%253Daps%26sprefix%3Dthe%2520wisdom%2520of%2520c&tag=qpit-21&linkCode=ur2&camp=1634&creative=19450"

Tim Norwood (A Vicar) said...

Read it. Have a copy on my shelf.

David said...

Tim, I was sent a link to this entry by my Vicar and I've been thinking about it quite a lot. I've posted a long comment on my blog (I'm not trying to outblog you - I think my readers will be interested in your thoughts, too)

I think there's a lot of potential in these thoughts - but I realise I'll hhave to read some of the books!

Pam said...

"Collaborative organisations seem not to make decisions very often. Meetings are essential but they tend to take the form of conversations in which ideas, facts and other information is shared. Change takes place at and individual and collective level resulting in consequent individual action. "

Fascinating - this is very much the position I'm in, I want people to go at a pace where they're able to think things through and own any decisions that are made. And in fact a lot of decisions either don't need to be made or are not a bog deal.

But I think there's a lot of pressure in a conventional committee set up to make decisions because that's the measurable outcome of a committee!