Keep your eye on the man, not the dog!

For fans of the rebooted series COSMOS, now presented by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the title of this piece will makes sense. But, presuming that many have not seen it yet, let me explain. In the second last instalment of the 13 episode series, Prof. deGrasse Tyson talks about climate change. In making a point he spends a few minutes explaining the difference between the climate and weather; the latter being the short term easily observed and the former a long term projection. He then goes on to illustrate the point whereby he is seen, from above, walking on the beach with a dog on a leash. From above he is shown to be walking a straight line in one direction while the dog is zigzagging around him running from left to right and so on. Prof. deGrasse Tyson then makes the above remark as a way of suggesting that we should pay attention to the long term trend (climate) rather than on occasional differences that can be observed on a short term basis (the weather).

...Prof. deGrasse Tyson and his dog...

…Prof. deGrasse Tyson and his dog…


While this is not an attempt to link climate change to collaboration, I really liked the way famous professor summed up a point I would like to make about collaboration, as I am wont to do from time to time. No doubt there’s no lack of suspicion amongst some managers, and business and civic leaders about the power of collaboration. Having covered this ground previously I will just repeat one point: collaboration changes things and change is not embraced easily. It makes sense then that most of the argument against collaboration is retrofitted by bits and pieces of information that are very much like Prof. deGrasse Tyson’s dog.

It would be downright naïve to expect that the collaboration practice would be appealing to every professional, regardless of discipline. In fact, my hope is that it will never reach that level of consensus. No one business strategy, no one business philosophy, no one business driver offers silver bullet solutions. Most that offer great results do so precisely because of tensions that arise from both positive and negative feedback. I find that I learn more about collaboration as both theory and practice, whenever I am asked a challenging question about it. Many are simple questions but I do not treat them lightly as they too offer a unique opportunity for reflection, analysis, and research which is the key to the maturing of the discipline. For instance, after the recent launch of a ‘collaborative’ that focuses on areas of resilience and brings together professionals across disciplines and across continents, I was asked why the term ‘collaborative’. I suppose, as much as I think of it is an easy question, I also realise these types of questions can be interesting indicators of where a particular audience may sit. We do, after all, have ‘co-operative’ and ‘collective’; so the idea is not especially innovative.

My point is this; some evidence may be right in front of us and yet we may not be able to see it, let alone make sense of it. The trick is to double-check our own operating system and calibrate our brain power in a way that allows us to be open to see what we can’t really recognise; at first that is. Every single day there is new evidence emerging about the power and relevance of collaboration as a business strategy for growth. That’s the man to watch!


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