Tag Archives: transparency

Getting to Cooperation: 4-C your work

10 Dec

In modern organizations, indeed in our digital world, the key modes of working will rely on connection, communication, collaboration and cooperation.

With whom you do work, and with whom you make that work available, are in fact more important than the task itself. This can seem like a radical departure from the way most people think about how they work. And, I suppose it is. That’s why, however, it is at the heart of the disconnect and dysfunction that we feel in our working lives.

The maxim is true: Anything that can be automated will be. With the advent of scripting, coding and AI, nearly any task that one can complete in isolation and anonymity will be replaced by automation. From truck drivers to data specialist, the machines are coming.

Rather than dystopian, I see this as an opening to something greater: The things that machines will do in our place will also liberate people to be more human.


The key function of human work will be to search for insights: “Computers are for answers. Humans are for questions.” (I’ve seen this quote attributed to several people, but I think it is Kevin Kelly. Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

cooperation-1237280_960_720At its core, forming the right questions and working to make sense of the answers that come back to us is a creative act. It is a human act. Creativity thrives on connection, discovery and the combination of ideas and objects that we exchange with others. Any creative output is not complete until others react to it. And if the creation is purposeful (=work), then it is only as useful as the feedback we get and how we revise and recreate.

Our ability to connect broadly, with a diverse trusted network of people that pulls together multiple disciplines and viewpoints, is the essence of purposeful creativity.


Building your network to find new people, ideas and processes, requires an active practice. There is no substitute for personal, deep, intimate conversation. When you find those opportunities, treasure them and capture the outcomes in a way that makes the ideas applicable.

In our digital world, however, we have more opportunity to communicate widely than was ever possible before. Email was a good start 25 years ago, but it’s usefulness is limited. The key is to communicate widely and openly: Let your voice be heard far and wide if you have something to say. Conversely, listen to conversations among others. The human voice will still carry the news.

Find channels that allow you to contribute and listen to those whom you are not immediately connected, or may not know (yet!). Ideas travel and their originators obscured. But the channels create a collective greater than is possible between the few. For me, Twitter has served this purpose, because I can choose to “listen” to whom I choose, and the act of contribution and the constant pruning of my community is an important part of my practice. You may choose other channels, but without communication, there is no growth.


This is the easiest part for people to grasp, and probably something you already do (and do well, hopefully). Working with others to complete specific tasks and projects can also benefit from the other “Cs” discussed here. The question is, what can others learn from your current collaboration, and how to share that?


It doesn’t surprise me how much confusion there is about what it means to act cooperatively: In ways that create the potential that others will benefit from what we do though if, when, and how is unknowable.

True cooperative functions actually fly in the face of command-and-control, competitive, hierarchical industrial-military systems that we are often so familiar that we may not even be aware of them most of the time.

Acting cooperatively is really the culmination of communication, connection and collaboration. When we share ideas, pass on our stories of success and failures, we lay the crumbs for others to follow. Even as we are following in the footsteps of others. We are all in it together – no matter how you define your current it. Serendipity happens, but only when we are open to and contribute to cooperative channels.

Learning, unlearning, relearning through and with others. Synthesizing ideas. It’s what I call The Learning Age.




Eat the cookie dough! Half-baked ideas are welcome.

17 Mar

My friend David and I took an epic road trip many years ago, the kind that can only be made by the young and foolish: Chicago to New York to surprise a friend. With no more than $20 in our pockets and his grandfather’s gas card to cover expenses, we set out to the east with the sun at our backs. Oh, to be 19 again.

Food? We had the gas card. Hotels? I don’t think it ever occurred to us. It was only a 12-hour drive, after all. At a truck stop convenience store around South Bend, Indiana, we gassed up the tank and stocked up on provisions. Jerky. Chips. Water. Nuts. And, as a last impulse that can only be ascribed to … could there be an adequate explanation? … a roll of bake-at-home cookie dough.

The Ohio & Penn Turnpikes, a roll of cookie dough, and the night. What could go wrong.

The Ohio & Penn Turnpikes, a roll of cookie dough, and the night. What could go wrong?

Raw cookie dough. Delicious, filling and funny—it seemed like a great idea. Bake, schmake! So as we drove we passed the plastic tube to take bites of dough. By the time we hit Youngstown, Ohio, neither of us felt so well. By the State College, Pennsylvania, cutoff, our bellies were aching like we had eaten billiard balls. Now I realize there was a lesson for today.

With the memory of that gut pain as my guide, I say we need to find a new place to share half-baked ideas and raw notions. In the spirit of show your work and working out loud (#WOL), we need a renewed sense that there is value in sharing the half-baked, ill-formed and in-progress stages of our work.

Just as luck finds those who prepare, serendipity of ideas and connectcookie doughing disparate dots into new insights come to those who are willing to share not only products but process; not only results but notions, hunches and hypotheses.

The reason why many “digital age” companies try so hard to create open spaces for folks to bump into each other—think Google’s cafeteria, Nike’s athletic facilities, cubeless open workstations and Yahoo!’s effort to curb its remote workforce—is to create the conditions for serendipity to occur.

Even when we are not actively collaborating with each other, we should certainly be cooperating with each other, dovetailing our efforts and forming brief spats of collaboration toward the same goals.

Short of the Google cafeteria (or, in addition to it), what this calls for is a more transparent, open spirit of sharing and learning. When you wait until your work is fully baked, with all the icing applied, you’ve waited too long. The learning, the idea development, the benefit to others from your work are revealed in your process, not your product. Mistakes and wrong paths are the quintessential learning moments.

Don’t wait to share your plate of beautiful cookies. Show us your ingredients—how you crack the eggs, the messes on the counter, why you chose your bowl and tools—and let us decide what to do with the dough. Some of us will bake it; others prefer it raw. That’s where the learning happens.
#WOL #LOL #ShowYourWork

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