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By Rachel Day, Jun 11 2019 06:21PM

This year I have been learning first-hand about the art of collaboration in a start-up business - Flying School Our ambition is to help children learn how to fly by having the courage to be themselves in the world and learn how to inspire others. I understood early on that for Flying School to achieve its vision, I needed to collaborate well, which meant I needed to learn more about the art of collaboration. I started to explore these questions;


1. Why collaborate?


2. What did I need to let go of in order to get the best outcome?


3. How do you achieve true collaboration?


Why Collaborate?


I know from past experiences that the work I produce is always better if I have involved others, It makes sense to bring together different experiences and perspectives in order to enrich the end product. The more self-aware I become, the more I know my own limits and appreciate the contribution of others.


Being clear on the why has been the motivating reason to put in the extra effort needed for collaboration.


My why is the knowledge that the end product will be far superior with collaboration.


What did I need to let go of?


One of my biggest concerns was collaborating with the ‘wrong’ people - thereby taking my project down the ‘wrong’ track and causing me too much angst and wasted energy. I needed to let go of some control over timescales as well as the overall outcome.


Working in collaboration has been a dance between holding onto my idea with a blinkered view and letting it be remoulded by others thinking - constantly drawing on my own wisdom to make decisions. Letting go of myassumptionsand choosing the best ideas in the moment.


When I first embarked on collaboration, I was approaching people who I deemed to have much more experience than me and who were strangers. How could I draw on their experience and avoid trying to prove myself? It felt scary to approach people in case they threatened the idea itself by telling me that it wouldn’t work or it needed to be different. I needed to let go of my ego during collaborative conversations, letting go of being right and start to access my wisdom, is their thinking right or mine?Rising above the egos and trying to make the right choice for the project.


The minute I chose to collaborate, I also chose to merge my ideas with others to reach an unknown outcome. In uncertainty who knows what is the right decision? We can only draw on our best wisdom in the moment. I had to let go of knowing the outcome.


How do you achieve true collaboration?


Flying School is a new business with no money, only a dream. I quickly learnt that lots of people were interested in the dream and supportive to me - they said “count me in” and I took a view that people would energise themselves and start to collaborate. I spent the first few months hoping that people would figure out how to be involved and I was almost waiting for them to tell me what they would contribute and how but they needed to know how to help and I needed to be clearer on what I needed.


I was hesitant about who I talked to in case they “took over” and I lost my voice - I began by talking to people I already knew and I realised that I needed to collaborate with people I didn’t know too if I was to really draw on a range of experience and insight. I decided I needed to be courageous in my collaborations - firstly with who I chose to speak to and then whether to continue the conversation or not.


In order to collaborate well I have had to increase my self-awareness - how might I sabotage myself? How can I access my own wisdom? I needed to be self-aware enough to understand if it was my ego speaking or my wisdom? In collaboration, our egos need to be equal - none better than the other - we also need to really listen to the other person without judgement - drawing on the thinking environment dialogue approach, where we listen to ignite more thinking in the moment rather than reply.


I am still learning how to become comfortable in the unknown otherwise collaboration is just a pull and push conversation between people telling each other their own truth rather than discovering together a joint truth.


Finally, I learnt my job was to hold on to the essence of the idea and then let it go to be shaped and moulded by other’s ideas. For others to be energised to shape the idea, they need to have a - share in the ownership - I had to let go of it being my baby that they were helping me with and shift the conversation so I heard them say ‘we’ rather than ‘you’.


How we operate in collaborative conversations, how we hold ourselves in wisdom is the key to its success.


Top tips for collaboration:


· Be clear on the why.


· Be clear on how others can collaborate with you.


· Access courage to choose the right people and keep an equal voice in the conversations.


· Get comfortable and linger in the unknown for as long as possible.


· Continue to increase your self-awareness.


· Let go of your ego and operate with wisdom.


· Share the ownership - choosing to collaborate means choosing to share the outcome.


We are excited to be running a workshop on Being a Collaborative Leaderas part of Cultivating Wisdom in Leadership Programme at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on 21 June.


Please email me rachel@thinkingstream.co.uk for more info.

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