The secret of successful collaboration

I attended two collaboration events last week which came from different angles yet met somewhere in the middle.  Firstly there was ‘Collaborative Leadership’ courtesy of the Global Business Partnership Alliance (GBPA).  This interactive workshop was one of their ‘Discovery’ projects and amongst other things involved a practical task with one of three small groups to create a way of suspending a book above the floor.  Here at NESTA the second event,  ‘Co-Creation Rules’, was facilitated by Johnnie Moore and James Cherkoff (see their manifesto) who used techniques borrowed from improvised comedy to get us to loosen up and trust each other.  The common theme that struck me was about rules.  With the GBPA event our group crashed and burned because we quickly decided that suspending the book from the ceiling ‘wasn’t cricket’.  No such inhibitions from our competitors! Then at ‘Co-Creation Rules’ I had learned to loosen up a bit and when the entire room of respectable academics, business people etc were asked to act out killing each other in slow-mo  I was able to let rip.   
So what has building a tripod out of the FT and attacking perfect strangers with a samuri sword taught me?  That the art to encouraging creative collaboration is to discard many but not all of the rules we and our leaders impose.  Aspire to ‘bounded freedom’.   


  1. I went along to the co-creation rules event, and thought the interactivity on the day was a great way of illustrating collaborative working and really enjoyed it. The face drawing exercise was for me a very powerful way of driving home the positives and also tensions around this.
    Reflections afterwards were really that we are moving into uncomfortable spaces where we’re not quite sure how to interact anymore. For example, social networking has become part of many of our lives now – but where are the social etiquette rules in cyberspace- in a place where colleagues, family and former workshop participants are listed as ‘friends’? The same is true when you’re busy killing strangers with an imagined samurai sword or when working collaboratively with a hierarchical or institutionally constructed group.
    I’d like to see this event run again but with say a representative group of staff from a public service hierarchy -a hospital or police station. Maybe its already happened…?

  2. Hi Alice, thanks for your comments and I’m glad you enjoyed one of the more surreal NESTA events. You make an compelling point about the rules of virtual interaction. Co-Creation Rules did look at the GE example but in general I think that on-line collaboration is an under-researched area. I will suggest that Johnnie and James try this with the police force (!) and see what they say.

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