conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Ditch Your Job to Woo Collaboration

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Sure it’s a mess. But it’s a glorious mess.

Focused, nose-to-grindstone is certainly simpler. Get it done so you can go home on time and watch TV.

Bring another person into your process and suddenly things get messy. You find yourself explaining rather than doing. And explanation is a time-sink—just like small-talk. Plus collaboration is not guaranteed: will you have to redo everything your collaborator attempted?

This is why students groan audibly when I introduce a group project in a writing class. Especially when their grade depends on successful interaction. They hate it hate it hate it.

And that is too bad. I’ve often wondered why we don’t teach collaboration alongside math and biology and writing and literature in grade school. But it seems collaboration is a thing you are primed for later in life, when you start to see you don’t have all the answers. It is a bent that takes root after we have an experience or two of utter delight at someone else’s contribution.

Wooing collaboration starts with shop talk: where you step out of your job’s established tracks and ask others about their experience. How do they do what they do? What do they delight in? Where does meaning enter into their work? Those answers play into our daily conversations. This is where we learn the eccentricities of our colleagues and see how they bring their diverse knowledge and experience to bear on the work. This is where we learn what it means to be alongside someone.


Just doing your job is isolating—especially when you think you have mastered it and have nothing left to learn. Inviting others into the thinking behind the job is incorporating. Yes it takes time and can be a mess, but in the end it is our connections that pull us forward.

How do you incorporate others into your work?



Image credit: Kirk Livingston

Written by kirkistan

October 7, 2014 at 10:01 am

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