The Greatest Gift Collaboration Can Give

flickr photo shared by asenat29 under a CC (BY) license

flickr photo shared by asenat29 under a CC (BY) license

The word “collaborate” can conjure up images that are far from positive. Maybe we’ve worked with collaborators whose personalities pushed our buttons. Maybe we got caught up in wanting “to win.” Maybe communication went on too long or, equally frustrating, not long enough.

But if we step back to think about it, the primary goal of collaboration is to create something new, something that didn’t exist before this. It can be a highly creative act. And, ideally, we collaborate because what we strive to create what can only be made better by working with someone else.

For collaboration to live up to its potential, we have to hit a mental reset button. We’ve got to reframe. As someone with lots of experience collaborating across cultures and disciplines to create something new, award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma offers some sage advice:

It’s easy to get locked into ‘in my world’ or ‘this is the way I see it,’ so you have to move your brain to a more spongelike state, as opposed to a judging one. I’ve learned to say, ‘If you think differently than I do, let me put myself in your shoes and see what’s successful according to you, and then you do the same for me.’ Once we’ve done that, our minds are more open. We already know two solutions, and often we’ll find a third, where two truths can live together.

I like the idea of moving my brain into a different state, of being deliberate about doing this. I also like the idea of putting myself in the other person’s shoes and of asking her to do the same for me. Finally, I love the idea of finding a third way, of allowing two (or more) truths to live side by side, where we create a space for something new to emerge.