I have shared with you before a definition of collaboration created by the Collaborative Environmental Network of Alabama – choosing to explore solutions together. The definition works for our mission and reflects the experiences of our working group. This definition asks, what answers can we find together?
Collaborative vision asks the question, what can we create together? Collaborative vision is a term I pulled together while reading Peter Block’s book, Flawless Consulting.
The question speaks to an ideal of what we want our future to be. Organizations and businesses create vision and mission statements all the time. The mission statement should reflect and clarify why the entity exists. Vision is about what the entity wants to be. Some statements out there, mostly created many years ago and largely forgotten by those who should be guided by them, fit a similar mold. In many cases the vision statement for one company could easily be swapped with that of another without many people noticing.
Being asked to create a vision for our organization could take us down that same boring path. However, being asked to create something new, to bring about something that didn’t exist before, could produce a meaningful and unique vision that actually inspires. It is also extremely satisfying and motivating.
The first and main part of the term, Collaborative Vision, requires that we create together. This part asks, what can we create together that we cannot create alone?
Typical visioning and strategic planning efforts reveal actions and efforts that individual elements can do on their own. Sometimes they are created through compromise rather than consensus. Individuals are assigned a task of bringing their thoughts to the table where they are meshed and truncated to make sure everyone’s input is included. This process ensures that the final output is no better than, and usually watered down from, the best individual ideas. The benefits of true consensus and collaboration is that we get to a place together that we never could have on our own.
Creating together takes courage, confidence, and hard work. It forces silos to crumble and bridges to be built. Since we have a tendency to hide behind these barriers, eased connection can be a scary thing.
Have you considered creating something new? Have you asked anyone else to join you as you explore the possibilities? The process can be exciting but the potential is limitless.