Creating Mindful Collaboration

07 March 2012

We often hear people talk about how difficult collaboration is or that it’s a waste of time. People are reluctant to share for fear that their ideas will be stolen or that people will only ‘use’ them. Unfortunately, these things do happen but not at fault of the system of collaboration, but people’s failure to understand how to collaborate correctly.

The Loner Myth: New York City’s economic system has been built on the myth that only the fittest survive, propagated by the saying ‘dog eat dog’. However, that has not served us well. We have only to look at the current state of Wall Street to understand that this is not the way forward. This myth has seeped into the world of enterprise and we see how entrepreneurs struggle to make meaningful connections. We have experienced this ourselves where people do not reply or partnerships seem to be one sided. After a couple of bad experiences, our primitive brain engages and wants to protect us, which then makes us fearful of collaboration. This leads us to think that it’s best to do it alone, and we become close-minded. The second societal construct that feeds this myth is the ‘lone genius’. We love to construct mythological stories about people like Steve Jobs, solely responsible for paradigm shifts. They are the authority.

But how far can you go by doing things alone? Is it even possible to do things alone?

We firmly believe that we cannot do things on our own. Furthermore, nothing in this universe works in isolation. Our entire universe works on collaborative ecosystems. Scientific research is providing proof of this. Quantum psychics argues that everything was formed from the Big Bang. Thus we share particle composition with everything on this planet. Biologist Bruce Lipton talks about how we are all like cells and we need to learn to work better together in order to create a healthier culture. In order to build a fruitful and strong economy, we must learn to collaborate with each other. THECUBE is two years old and we are already seeing the fruits of collaboration. Businesses grow faster, people feel great about being in the space, and the level of business ethics is high. Even from a limbic perspective, being part of a collaborative community helps us stay healthy. We release dopamine when we are social and dopamine gives us energy!

So if we are all connected and science backs it up, what does this have to do with enterprise? The Right Environment for Collaboration If a start-up is to succeed and move forward, it needs collaboration. Collaboration starts with a healthy environment. Here’s how:


  • Be open and trust – when you tell someone you trust them, it causes them to release oxytocin, the neurochemical that helps us bond.
  • State your rules clearly – this means being upfront about deadlines, roles, objectives and vision.
  • Create an idea pot – if everyone in the collaboration group understands that all ideas are up for grabs, they will be more apt to share.
  • Develop clear projects – if people think that the collaboration does not have a finite purpose they will lose interest. Propose a small project and grow from there.
  • Diversity – have your collaborative group be composed of people from diverse industries. This helps keep the collaboration open, unhomogenized, innovative and without ego clashes.
  • Leave your ego at the door – collaboration is not about you or what you will get out of it…gasp! It’s about what you can give.
  • Be consistent – book a space and time that you will all agree to meet no matter what. This builds rhythm and trust to generate a real bond between everyone.
  • Ask questions – don’t jump in to generating ideas as you first need to discover what the problem is. Allow the group to ask questions and then begin to define the problem.
  • Be comfortable with conflict – this a collaboration, not a dogma. People should therefore be comfortable proposing opposing views.
  • Make it safe – always ensure that people feel safe and unjudged to allow trust to build and real innovation to flourish.
  • Be leaderless – again this a collaboration, not an institution. No one should be leading, instead have a great facilitator that can steer each collaborative meeting. This will ensure everyone is heard and that the collaboration is moving forward.
  • Let things be nebulous – At the start of every collaboration, expect the project to feel uncertain and nebulous. If you keep at it, your brains will begin to sift through what is important and begin to generate ideas.