By Gerry Murray. 12-07-2020
(Scroll down for a laugh)

“True collaboration begins inside the individual, not the organisation.” ~ Jim Tamm

A Google search on collaboration and COVID-19 will produce thousands of results, from the need for scientific collaboration in fighting the virus to how to better work together from home. There's a lot of emphasis on software. 

However, whilst the skilful use of software may make us more efficient at collaborating it takes human collaborative skill to make us effective

In a technology-driven world, leaders are often too quick to throw software at a collaboration problem instead of the less costly approach of addressing the people side first. No amount of clever software will improve collaboration if the people using it are not willing to collaborate or do not have the requisite skills to do so effectively. 

The ongoing COVID crisis will be exposing many collaborative challenges that organisations face. If you’re facing some then I hope what follows helps. 

What is collaboration anyway? 

In their excellent book, “the collaborative leader”, authors Ian McDermott and L. Michael Hall explore what it takes to cultivate collaboration in an organisation. Both men have worked extensively with leaders helping them build collaborative cultures. 

Among many useful insights, they spend time simply defining collaboration. The term “collaboration” is so widely used that it often leads to misunderstandings and poor decision making as a result. They also point out that not every situation requires collaboration and there are many different types of collaboration. I highly recommend this book. 

What skills do you need?

In 2015, I met Jim Tamm, the author of the book “Radical Collaboration”. Jim subsequently certified me as a trainer of Radical Collaboration - an immersive, intensive and fun process. Since then I’ve used many of the Radical Collaboration tools to great effect when working with teams. 

What makes this research-based methodology even more powerful is that we’re able to measure the 5 Radical Collaboration competencies using tools developed by Dr Dan Harrison. We can also take Dan’s tools and measure the effectiveness of a team using what are known as the Harrison Team Paradoxes. This combination provides very powerful insights, which in turn help save money, resolve conflicts and make teams more engaged and productive. 

What have chickens got to do with it? 

As a judge adjudicating labour disputes, Jim Tamm initially looked for a way to help people resolve their conflicts without going to litigation. He and his team started out teaching adversarial teams the negotiating methods that had been developed at Harvard, and to which I referred a few weeks ago. 

However, they discovered that without 4 other core collaborative skills the parties just slipped back into their old ways and conflicts increased again. With the help of researchers, Radical Collaboration evolved into a 5 competency model and the results that were achieved thereafter were impressive. 

In his famous TED talk, Jim expands upon these results and explains what chickens can teach us about collaboration

If you have a team full of red-zone chickens, maybe we should talk…



Q: Why did the chicken cross the playground?
A: To get to the other slide!

Q: Why did the rooster cross the road?
A: To prove he wasn’t a chicken!

Q: Why did the poultry farmer become a school teacher?
A: So he could grade his eggs.

There was a chicken who walked into a store and said, “Got any nails?” The storekeeper said, “no, we don’t.” The next day, the chicken went into the same store and asked the same thing and got the same answer. The chicken kept going back every day for a week and asked the same thing and kept getting the same answer until the storekeeper got so angry he said, “if you come in here and ask that again, I will hit you on the head with a hammer!” The next day, the chicken walks into the store and asks, “Got a hammer?” The storekeeper says, “no.” Then the chicken asks, “Got any nails?”

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