April 29, 2009

Zen and the Art of Collaboration

I love collaborating. This is new for me, something I've embraced in the last few years. Actually, it is more than embrace, it is the work that I do every day. Previously I thought I had to have all the answers and everyone else was just slowing me down,or watering down my ideas. Now I know that collaborating takes good ideas and makes them great. Perhaps this evolution of my working style has come from maturity, good co-collaborators, or more confidence in being able to step back and not feel threatened - or a love of learning.

The challenge I am now facing is how to maintain "zen" when you collaborate. I have very high standards around service delivery and being on-time. Any barrier to being able to live up to my working-values, makes me zingy. But when you collaborate you only have control over yourself and not others. So, how do I find balance in these situations without having a total meltdown?

I suppose letting go of perfection is one step. Or, realizing that there is no such thing as being perfect. We use to say about our graphic design projects that there is always some error you find after going to print. That was the "zen error". Once you discovered the inevitable snafu you could let go because there was no more anxiety about waiting for the imperfection to appear.

Collaboration is like theatre and sports. Interactions may have an intended outcome and move along an agenda-driven progression. But in the end, when you bring many folks together, you have to give up control. Even more important, you want to raise your entire team up to a higher level and avoid that pitfall of blaming others. So not zen.