Controversy Breeds Collaboration
The Future of Collaboration is at Stake
Today, there is an alarming trend where people remove others from their social networks when they have opposite ideas and beliefs to avoid confrontation.
Public opinion, across a variety of important issues, is becoming more divided and more heated. In turn, we avoid many conversations altogether, in an attempt to sidestep disagreement or disappointment. In essence, “If you do not agree with my beliefs and opinions, I would rather disassociate myself from you.”
This behavior suppresses critical ideas for the growth of businesses and the personal development of individuals. Being exposed to opposite views of the world creates threats that often lead us to cling to a tribe to reinforce our sense of security. But by doing this, we cut ourselves off from collaboration, creativity, and innovation.
Ultimately, organizations without controversies are going to die.
We Americans Avoid Confrontation
It’s part of the American culture to be a team player, a community member, and a supportive individual. We are not taught to disagree and argue with one another.
From an early age, we participate in team sports, so we can learn the importance of working together to achieve a common goal. Many religions emphasize traditions and rituals that members are expected to perform, to promote a set of shared beliefs.
As a result, in the business world, we may keep an idea to ourselves fearing rejection or being seen as adversarial to the team. In general, we’re conditioned to avoid confrontation.
No wonder spending time with family during the holidays can be stressful. Thanksgiving dinners are often dreaded because they show us how ill-equipped we are for having discussions with people who hold opposing ideas.
Born in France, I was raised in an environment where people argue and consistently confront ideas, yet work together. I’ve always been surprised when, after a discussion with my husband and an exchange of ideas, my daughters timidly come to us and ask, “What are you arguing about?” or “Why are you mad at each other?” We assure them that we are not arguing. Rather, we are debating and sharing for mutual benefit.
The Future of Collaboration Starts with a New Narrative
(In French, we call it “Entraide”)
Entraide literally translates as “mutual aid.” It is the spirit of mutual benefit that is delivered through the sharing of opposing viewpoints or competitive resources.
This HBR article, including case studies from Nespresso and Google Nest, demonstrates competing ecosystems that joined forces in the spirit of Entraide. A broader and more successful value proposition became a reality through ecosystems that wanted to support each other.
“Competing is increasingly about identifying new ways to collaborate and connect rather than simply offering alternative value propositions.“
Instead of starting a conversation from our own perspective attached to our beliefs, values and relying on past experiences, we need to start by choosing a new narrative.
Out with the old and trite, “I’m right and you’re wrong,” or other similar versions such as “I’m older so I know better or I’ve seen it all,” “I’m the boss and I know things you don’t.”
Adopting this new, mutual aid narrative is necessary to improve collaboration and expose ourselves to opposing viewpoints. In a mutual aid relationship, both parties acknowledge the necessity to find some common ground and commonality while respecting each other's differences and desires.
The Positive Side Effect of Entraide
One side effect of this new mutual aid narrative is an increase in our listening capacity.
The only way to hear others’ ideas is to truly listen to them. To listen, we have to stop the flow of stories in our head happening at any given moment. In other words, we must stop rehearsing lines and put down our script. Only then can this new and improved narrative take place and lead us to collaboration.
The Story our Stories Tell Matters
Learning to have a discourse or a confrontation starts with finding commonality and things that make us similar to the other. If we realize that we’re too attached to a topic and can’t let it go, we need to give ourselves a time-out and move on.
Collaboration is the key to finding solutions, experimenting with different approaches and creating greatness.
The stories we tell matter and when we choose a new common narrative based on ideas expanded through debate, we create a better story: a story of innovation.
We know a few people who can help your organization embrace a new culture by revisiting your assumptions and we promise to bring our ideas to help strengthen your brand’s story.