Collaboration and Communication

In today’s world of work the need for effective and efficient collaboration to create value is big. To create value we collaborate with coworkers, peers and customers form around the world to solve problems or create new and better products. Collaboration is for the most part communication between the collaborators. Communication is one of the hardest things to do out there. There are three mayor challeges in communicating to collaborate.

The first one is about communication in general. If we want to collaborate we have to communicate to express our thoughts on the subject, get feedback, discuss new ideas, summarize and make conclusions. This is a very hard thing to do effective and efficient. We need to know our own communication skills and preferences and know about these skills and preferences for the people we collaborate with. I think the MBTI assessment is a great way to figure out personal preferences and their impact on communication.

Second challenge is about language. The current playing field is a global one and thus we communicate in different languages. The langauage that is used in communication between people with different languages is mostly english. Let’s call english the global interaction language. If you are a native english speaker you have some advantages here, but for the most of us this is a challenge to translate ideas of others and your own ideas from the interaction language to the native language. For me this blogpost is witten in english (as my cobloggers and myself want to engage the largest possible crowd) but my thoughts are in dutch. Somewhere between my mind and fingers my ideas get translated. Just the use of the interaction language is not enough because the crowd out there does not have the same level of english. For everybody including native english speakers another challenge is to use terminology that the reader can comprehend.

The third challenge is about cultural differences that have impact on communications. The sender and receiver of communication both have mental models in which they interpret communication. This interpretation is after translation. So in this blogpost I am thinking in dutch and writing in english. But I am writing this from a dutch mindset and chances are the you, my valued reader ;-), are interpreting my english writing with a indian mindset. Differences in your culture colour your reading and comprehension of my thoughts. To make this post succesfull I should have written this post with your cultural background in mind and you should have read this post with my cultural background in mind aswell! This is a very difficult task because I am not familiar with indian culture and I don’t want to focus on indian readers but to a global audience, so where to start? For the reader this is also a hard thing to do, because it implicates you need to know about dutch culture as well! Some of the best examples on this challenge I read the other day in Outliers a book by Malcolm Gladwell. He talked about communication in the cockpit of aeroplanes and the possible destructive power of culture on collaboration.

If we take these challenges into account it is a mirracle that communication is succeeding in the first place. The question is if this mirracle is a consequence of contious actions or uncontius behaviour?

Learning and Creativity

This week I read the article “Teaching Smart People How to Learn” by Chris Argyris. It is a great piece of work discussing the idea and practical application of double loop learning. The examples in this article are very vivid and really get to the point why proffesionals or knowledge workers avoid learning.

Defensive reasoning is a big barrier for double loop learning. Teammembers search for solutions and reasons to problems outside themselves. They are affraid to acknoledge failure and thus are preventing themselves from learning. Success in their careers is the main source for them to be affraid of critisicm.

Learning and the educational systems are two subjects rather close to each other and there is a great video from TED by Sir Ken Robinson.

[ted id=”66″]

Ken argues that educational systems kill creativity. Kids are not affraid to be wrong and if you are not prepared to be wrong you never come up with something original. Kids lose this ability to be wrong and turn in to adults that are affraid to be wrong. Education is telling students that mistakes are the worst things to make.

In sports it is a common sense that mistakes and losing are needed to win matches and achieve goals. If a player makes a mistake during a match this is the only moment you can make them see how to perform better and to avoid the mistake. When I am coaching I always try to make teams lose bigtime during the training season. That is the time when they learn the most and create a bigger appetite for succes.

Chris and Ken are both stating that the inability to make mistakes, to be wrong and be defensive about them is a big problem. This problem leads to the inability to learn and the inability to be creative. We need to start learning again to make mistakes, be honest about them and learn from these mistakes to do a better job!