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The ideaalistair.cockburn.usCollaboration:%the dance of contribution
Collaboration:%the dance of contributionLift othersIncrease safetyMake progressAdd energy
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Lift othersEach person in the room has the opportunity to lift others, toraise their personal self-esteem, social status, confidence.There are various ways to accomplish these.Be courteous. Courtesy is designed to lift others. Ordinarycourtesy includes giving others the chance to speak,listening, inquiring and abstaining from grandstanding andother displays of ego. If you have no other idea of how toproceed, simply be courteous in your interactions.Lower your social posture. Speaking from a lowered posturemeans placing others at your same level or higher by toneand gesture (it does not mean groveling). The book Impro givesmore specific tips as to how to behave in a lower statusposition, but the book also highlights at the same time thatpeople simply know how to behave the moment they decide ontheir relative status.If everyone does this, the result can be simply wonderful.Everyone cherishes what everyone else says, each persongrants the others the right to be an expert in their ownviews. This was the way I experienced the writing of the AgileManifesto. Each person listened intently to each other person,each granted the others the status of expert in theirspeaking, nobody claimed higher status than the others. Weachieved great results in that day and a half.Listen intently. Pay close attention to the speaker, digestwhat the person says, and then ask a question that shows thatyou have understood what they said and are taking it to anew level.Recognize others. Delight in the ways other people find toimplement their ideas, and let them know that. Ask for theirthoughts. When possible, accept one of their ideas.Increase safetyThe essence of collaboration is establishing in people’s mindsthat it is OK for them to contribute whatever they have. To theextent they feel fear, they close down. To the extent they feelsafe, they contribute.Be yourself. People seem to be able to tell if you are acting orbeing yourself. If they sense acting, they are likely to becomenervous about what you might be hiding. Being yourself indicatesthere is nothing to be afraid of. Part of “being in the bar waitingfor the second round of drinks” is being obviously relaxed andyour regular self.Donate. If people see that you are not afraid to give away yourideas, they feel safer in offering up their own.Widen the boundary. (Evidently my favorite move.) Say or dosomething that you would like to say or do but which might lieoutside the expected boundaries. If you once demonstrate that thissort of statement or action is acceptable, it widens theboundaries of what others can do. Quite possibly, what others wereafraid to say or do suddenly appear “safe” to them.Support others. Help clarify someone else’s viewpoint. Let someoneelse come forward who has trouble getting heard.Challenge but adopt ideas. Challenging others is part of wideningthe boundaries. Adopting ideas lifts others and also indicatesthat it is safe for others to offer ideas.Build personal relationships. Part of building a personalrelationship is indicating that you won’t say something to hurtthe other person. With someone to back them up and protect them, aperson who is otherwise very shy might feel brave enough to stepforward and contribute.Not betray. Don’t leak information that will hurt someone. Thisshould be quite obvious.Leave some privacy. Finally, leave some space for people to hidein. If there is nowhere safe to hide, then fear goes up again andsafety goes down.Make progressSuccess breed success. Getting no results isdepressing, making progress encourages thepeople in the room. There are, of course, severalways to contribute toward making progress.Say something valuable. Try to make sure thatyour first speaking contributes something ofvalue. This not only moves the work forward, butalso predisposes others to listen to what youhave to say.Clarify the way forward. Sometimes what helps isto “pull the threads together” and illustrateeither what has been achieved, where the groupis, or even better, show what the way forwardlooks like.Focus. Stay on track, pull others back if they gettoo far off track. Sometimes going off track for alittle while releases some tension in the room,but people seem to appreciate being brought backGet a result. Getting the first result of the dayis very heartening. If the day is coming to aclose, it is possible to set up a very small goal,just so that the people in the room have theexperience of victory. Good facilitators seemalways to be able to generate some sort ofvictory to help encourage and bind the group.Add energyThis last category is minor compared tothe others, but still noticeable. Lethargicpeople drain energy from others in theroom; those interested, curious and activelend energy to the others in the room.Keep your energy high. Avoid beinglethargic yourself. Even just sitting alertand listening intently contributes energyto the room.Challenge. Challenge others’ ideas, not toput them down, but to explore the truth andthe limits of the idea. Challengingsomeone’s idea is part of being honest, partof helping to make progress, part oflistening intently.Contribute. Finally, of course, contributingyour own ideas adds energy to the room. Ifeveryone only sits and listens, the groupwill wind down.http://alistair.cockburn.us/Collaboration%3A+the+dance+of+contribution
Lift others• Be courteous• Lower yoursocialposture• Listenintently• RecognizeothersIncreasesafety• Be yourself• Donate• Widen theboundary• Supportothers• Challenge butadopt ideas• Buildpersonalrelationships• Don’t betrayMake progress• Success breedsuccess• Say somethingvaluable• Clarify theway forward• Focus• Get a resultAdd energy• Challenge• Contribute• Keep yourenergy highShare out themes among observers to help you focus
Challenge• Challenge othersideas, not to putpeople down but toexplore the truthand limits of theideas.• Challenging anidea is part ofbeing honest,listening intently,and makingprogressContribute• Contributing yourown ideas addsenergy to the room.• If everyone onlysits and listens,the group will winddown.• When people seethat you are notafraid to give awayyour ideas, theyalso feel safer inoffering up theirownKeep your energyhigh• Listen intently• Avoid beinglethargic yourself.• Body posture,muscle tone, eyealertness, allcommunicate yourenergy level.• Even just sittingalert contributesenergy to the room.Pay close attentionto the speaker,digest what theysay, ask a question.
Lower yourrelative socialposition• By tone ofvoice andgesture, placethe otherperson at yoursame level orhigher.• This includesself-deprecatinghumor.• It does notmean groveling.Recognize others• Ask for theirthoughts,accept an idea.• When you buildon their idea,let them know,so they getrecognition.• Delight in theways they findto implementtheir ideas.Inquire, dontcontradict• When inclinedto contradict,inquireinstead, todiscover newinformationthat makes theanswer otherthan what youexpected.• Work tounderstand whythe otherpersons answeris so different.Challenge butadopt• It is upliftingwhen someonedisagrees withyou at first,but then seesand adoptsyour view.• Do this forsomeone else.Look to adopttheir ideaswhere possible,so they knowthey are heardand theirideas valued.
Get one result• Getting aresult isheartening.• Goodfacilitatorsoftengenerate avictory tohelpencourage andbind thegroup.• If the sessionis ending, aimfor a smallgoal, so thatthe group canend with avictory.Get back fromdiversions• Keep yourideas ontopic.• Going offtrack for alittle whilereleases sometension in theroom, butpeopleappreciatebeing broughtback.Say somethingvaluable• Try to makeyour firstspeaking ofvalue.• This moves thework forward,and itencouragesothers tolisten to you.Clarify theway forward• Sometimes ithelps to "pullthe threadstogether",showwhat has beenachieved, whatforward lookslike, or wherethe group is.
Show you wonthurt• Show that youwont say thingsthat hurt theother person.With someone toback up andprotect them, aperson mightfeel braveenough to stepin andcontribute.• Leave someprivacy. If thereis nowhere safeto hide, feargoes up andsafety goes down.• Dont leakinformation thatwill hurtsomeone. Thisshould beobvious.Be yourself• People canusually tell ifyou are beingyourself oracting. Beingyourself showsthere is nothingto be afraid of.• Try "being in thebar at 9pm withfriends," quiteobviouslyrelaxed and yourregular self.(This is not anexcuse to becrude.)Say somethinghonest, on theedge of what youthink is allowed• Say or dosomething thatyou would liketo, but whichmight lieoutside theexpectedboundaries.• This widens theboundaries ofwhat others cando. What otherswere afraid tosay or do maysuddenly appear"safe" to them.Add humor• Humor lowerstension, allowsrelaxation.• It is not themaking of a jokethat increasessafety, it is thatsafe groups feelsafe joking witheach other.• Personal attacksdisguised asjokes do notcount.
instructionsForm groups of 5-7Roles;• Storyteller,• Interviewer,• Up to 4 observers,• Someone is thefacilitatorTell stories aboutyour projects.• Talk about whatothers did; sponsors,stakeholders, teammembersObservers make a notewhich behaviours aredisplayed in the story5 minute iterations,3 minute review,swap roles
Challenge• Challenge others ideas, not to put people down but to explore the truth and limits of the ideas.• Challenging an idea is part of being honest, listening intently, and making progress.Contribute• Contributing your own ideas adds energy to the room.• If everyone only sits and listens, the group will wind down.• When people see that you are not afraid to give away your ideas, they also feel safer in offering up their own.Keep your energy high• Avoid being lethargic yourself.• Body posture, muscle tone, eye alertness, all communicate your energy level.• Even just sitting alert contributes energy to the room. Pay close attention to the speaker, digest what they say,ask a question.Lower your relativesocial position• By tone of voice and gesture, place the other person at your same level or higher.• This includes self-deprecating humor.• It does not mean groveling.Recognize others• Ask for their thoughts, accept an idea.• When you build on their idea, let them know, so they get recognition.• Delight in the ways they find to implement their ideas.Inquire, dontcontradict• When inclined to contradict, inquire instead, to discover new information that makes the answer other than whatyou expected.• Work to understand why the other persons answer is so different.Challenge but adopt• It is uplifting when someone disagrees with you at first, but then sees and adopts your view.• Do this for someone else. Look to adopt their ideas where possible, so they know they are heard and their ideasvalued.Get one result• Getting a result is heartening.• Good facilitators often generate a victory to help encourage and bind the group.• If the session is ending, aim for a small goal, so that the group can end with a victory.Get back fromdiversions• Keep your ideas on topic.• Going off track for a little while releases some tension in the room,• but people appreciate being brought back.Say somethingvaluable• Try to make your first speaking of value.• This moves the work forward, and it encourages others to listen to you.Clarify the wayforward• Sometimes it helps to "pull the threads together", showwhat has been achieved,• what forward looks like, orwhere the group is.Show you wont hurt• Show that you wont say things that hurt the other person. With someone to back up and protect them, a personmight feel brave enough to step in and contribute.• Leave some privacy. If there is nowhere safe to hide, fear goes up and safety goes down.• Dont leak information that will hurt someone. This should be obvious.Be yourself• People can usually tell if you are being yourself or acting. Being yourself shows there is nothing to be afraidof.• Try "being in the bar at 9pm with friends," quite obviously relaxed and your regular self. (This is not an excuse tobe crude.)Say something honest,on the edge of whatyou think is allowed• Say or do something that you would like to, but which might lie outside the expected boundaries.• This widens the boundaries of what others can do. What others were afraid to say or do may suddenly appear "safe"to them.Add humor• Humor lowers tension, allows relaxation.• It is not the making of a joke that increases safety, it is that safe groups feel safe joking with each other.• Personal attacks disguised as jokes do not count.
Alistairs article should beread to get his ideas withoutdilution from me.You can read the Dance ofCollaboration here;• http://alistair.cockburn.us/Collaboration%3a+the+dance+of+contributionMy take on this is that it isa when we mature into collaboratorswe are all leaders, and we need tomake room for each other. To do thatwe need to become even better leadersby becoming more self aware andkinder to each other, whilemaintaining focus on getting thingsdone.There is a story I sometimesuse to illustrate the challenge ofleadership; among equals.When travelling with friendsyou all defer to each other aboutwhere to eat. You pass by onerestaurant after another in thehope that something magical willappear that pulls the whole crownin without you having to be the onethat makes the decision.The place you hoped for neverappears and you end up havingmicrowaved food from a conveniencestore before heading back to thehotel. If only we had a better wayof stepping in and out of leadershiproles…There is also a nice idea herethat, as we mature in our ability tocollaborate we can use metaphorslike dancing instead of combat andsports to describe the way we work.Perhaps we need a whole new set ofstories to be collaborators.Craig BrownJune 2013