Wednesday, March 14, 2007

My Collaboration-Imploding Hot Button

Jenny Ambrozek emailed me this link from Patty Anklam's blog, which led me to a guest post by Fred Mandell on Eric Mankin's blog. The were all writing about collaboration, something that is both part of my practice and takes up a lot of my thinking time.

Patty's overview does a nice summation about the qualities of collaboration, but don't miss the pictures on Fred's post. By looking at collaboration between artists, we get another view of possibilities. (Diversity!)

Making possibility visible is one of the key benefits for me in collaborating with others. This happens when we each bring our individual perspectives. Our different perspectives. But this isn't always easy.

Over the last couple of days, I've been part of a couple of blog comment "interactions." I'm not ready to call them conversations, but they are beginning to feel like it. My qualification for conversation is when there is a healthy mix of interactions, beyond personal assertions and zingers. The second link above is not (yet?) a conversation. The first one is getting there.

These interactions, like reading a variety of blogs, are openings to different points of view. In a way, it is a form of collaborative thinking. The interaction on Jenny's post, while at times heated, feels like the participants are actually reading everyone's comments. The second one, (on Chris Pirillo's blog) is still just people making their points of view visible, me included.

However, on Chris' blog I had a visceral reaction when the person who commented after me referred to women as "babes we'd like to pony up a preso?" (It is a thread about women as speakers and participants at a tech conference.) Yup, I reacted to the word "babes." My first thought was, what is the male equivalent of babes, boys? Do we line up male speakers as boys? Or is babeness contingent not just on the knowledge a woman speaker brings, but how attractive she is? Again, do we judge our male speakers that way?

You can see where my mind went. It went into assumption and attack mode. I don't know the guy who wrote the comment. I looked on his blog and there is some interesting stuff. But I sure did not cut him any slack in my first read of his comment. I know some of the people commenting on Jenny's blog and, while Dave Snowden can get me clenching up a bit, I know and respect his work, so I don't let myself get caught up (very often) in the anus-clenching, teeth-grinding mode as I read and reply.

Listening is a key part of collaboration. If a word, a phrase or a post shuts us down, we lose.

Language sure can open up or shut down a conversation for me. Or a collaboration. When a label someone else uses hits my hot button, it is harder to stay in the game. When an assertion that strikes me as over the top hits my hot button; same thing. My hot button can be the end of a collaboration, and kill many from starting.

My quick learning is I need to watch my hot button or I'll miss opportunities for collaboration. That is not to say I have to like or appreciate the language or style others are using. And if we dig deeper into collaboration together, that seems fair game for negotiation.

But as far as keeping the door open, I'm going to try and give my hot button a vacation.

Image from fish2000


Anonymous Jamie Notter said...

Beautifully said, Nancy.

Be aware of your hot button, and take the time to use “cool” thinking before you respond.

But don’t suppress. Challenging people on word choice is still a part of collaboration. And it’s also a part of dismantling the system of sexism. I know it’s hard to figure out how to do it and still keep the conversation going. I wish I had “magic” advice on this, but I don’t. And I really appreciate the depth of your thinking and response to this. Thanks.

Oh, and related to collaboration, I heard Peter Senge speak last week and he had this quote: "Collaboration is the human face of systems thinking."

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Jenny Ambrozek said...

Nancy, thanks for your distant perspective. What popped for me reading your post was the notion of "contribution" as opposed to simply "interaction". I see that everyone who commented on the post you mention, starting with you, made thoughtful "contributions" to a conversation and around issues that were larger than themselves. I have to admit I've thought a lot these past few days about both the power and deficits of blogs. Began with the posts about "Enterprise 2.0 Tips". Would not a much wider audience been better served if these "tips" had been shared in a wiki? At the same time I suspect fewer tips would have been offered because the visible identity and public recognition for the poster is reduced. Does this make any sense?

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Marshall Kirkpatrick said...

I thought your comment on Chris's blog was remarkably thoughtful and non-combative, while still urging a change in perspective. It's probably not helpful to get worked up publicly over the stupid word "babes" and besides, people who talk like that will likely provide ample opportunity for critique in the future.

Thinking of you,

8:33 PM  
Blogger Tree Fitzpatrick said...

if only

if only I would always listen without blame of judgement, what a wonderful world it might be?!

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Graham Wegner said...

Everyone has one of these buttons - I start putting up mental barriers whenever someone starts inferring their fundamental Christian beliefs by thanking God or praying for others and I get the same "the anus-clenching, teeth-grinding mode " sensation you so brilliantly describe in this post. It's horribly judgmental of me but I struggle every time I come across it. I suppose the first way to solve an issue is to confront it - thanks for that.

5:08 AM  

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