Generosity and Collaboration
by Milenko Matanovic
Everyone talks about the importance of collaboration but my experience is that most of us are rather poor at doing it. Perhaps it’s a remnant from the “every man for himself” era but humans seem to lack the ‘muscle memory’ that helps collaboration come naturally.
This is why we at Pomegranate Center are committed to studying, teaching, practicing, and advocating collaboration. Our most obvious display of collaboration is through our gathering places that illuminate and demonstrate what is possible when people truly work together for the common good. But our greater mission is to promote collaborative practices everywhere. This is why we are now focusing more and more energy on consulting and training.
Community collaboration is about discovery. It is a gutsy work where we must constantly adjust to the ideas and impulses of others. It requires us to be changed, and this takes courage. It is not for the faint hearted. It certainly is not for those promoting themselves, their organizations or fixed static ideas. Collaboration thrives in the gradual discovery where ideas from multiple sources join to shape a solution more powerful than any singular points of view. The end result is always a multiple victory because it has resonance with various approaches. Therefore, at the end, each participant is able to say: “I did this.”
In collaboration, great ideas rise to the surface because they have value, not just because they have promoters. I have seen this in many meetings: sometimes the greatest insights come from the least expected sources: a child, a quiet writer, the mother of a two year old, or a scientist. From their unique point of view they see possibilities that others cannot, and it takes generosity to admit our blind spots.
For collaboration to work, generosity – the ability to hear and embrace ideas not of our own making – is essential. At first, offerings from unfamiliar territory may be seen as irrelevant noise and it is easy to reject them. They do not fit with our worldview. But that is precisely why these ideas are important. They have the power to shake us out of our certainty then discover greater possibilities. Generosity starts when we admit that we are great at some things but also blissfully unaware about many other things. When presented with wisdom from others, generosity will make us ask simple questions: “Why do you think this is important?” “Tell us more?” Listening goes hand in hand with true collaboration. We need to hear what is behind the words of others to discover their meaning and value.