Don’t underestimate the Power of a…
I left the headline incomplete as I wanted you to complete it.
You know the answer.
Are you still thinking?
Hint: Remember Shahrukh Khan’s dialogue in the Movie Chennai Express.
Did you get it now?
If you still haven’t, here it goes – Don’t underestimate the Power of a Common Man.
I love this line. At the same time, I am always reminded of a quote by American Teacher Peace Pilgrim from her book – Her Life and Work in her Own Words –
“Never underestimate the power of a group working for a good cause…Their power is beyond their numbers.”
But why am I telling you this?
Because of a magical superpower called Collaboration that we all so desperately need to thrive in the 21st century.
In their book “Two Beats Ahead – What Musical Minds Teach Us About Innovation”, Authors Panos A. Panay and R Michael Hendrix wrote, “Have you ever found yourself on a project, unsure of exactly where you are going, or how to get there, but in good company? That’s how a collaboration should feel.
You start with an idea that is so ambitious, so new or so different from what you have done before that you are acutely aware that you can’t succeed on your own. Other people’s skill sets, and talents are needed to pull it off.”
You should meditate over the lines in bold for a few minutes. As it’s important to understand the context and purpose of collaboration even before you begin to think of it.
There is a lot of noise in our industry about collaboration. Everyone seems to be speaking about it. If that is true, the first step in collaboration is to understand what collaboration is. But let me tell you first what it’s not.
Buying software from a software vendor is not a collaboration. Signing up with a technology platform is not collaboration. Joining a network is not a collaboration. Being part of a study group is not a collaboration. Crying on each other’s shoulders is not collaboration. Neither is outsourcing your tasks or functions.
If none of this is collaboration, what is it then?
According to Wikipedia, collaboration is the process of two or more people, entities or organizations working together to achieve a goal.
But this is a very simplistic definition and is often misunderstood. To give you an example, just because someone takes care of your back office, research and compliance doesn’t mean you are collaborating with the firm. You are simply outsourcing your tasks to this firm. This firm is your outsourcing partner.
Real Collaboration is when magic happens and the resulting outcome is unlike anything you have achieved before. This type of collaboration helps you become the best version of yourself and helps you build a truly world class firm. It’s necessary to understand this critical distinction between real collaboration and everything else.
Let’s now dedicate a few lines to understand why even the best of the best collaborate.
Panos and Michael shared the example of legendary American trumpeter and composer Miles Davis. They wrote. “When Miles was eighteen years old, he famously moved from St. Louis to New York in a search for legendary virtuoso Dizzy Gillespie. Davis was already wildly talented and could have held his own with any jazz legend, but he wanted to play with the person he admired most. The draw was Gillespie’s talent, his uniqueness, his jagged, audacious departures from written chord sequences – all of which were very different from Davis’s lyrical, personal and introspective style.
What then drove one trumpeter to pursue another?
It was the opportunity for discovery, a desire to learn, and a desire to grow together.”
These are such amazing words that I had to simply repeat them – the opportunity for discovery, a desire to learn and a desire to grow together. This is the ultimate purpose of a real collaboration. And this is how you should look at it too.
The point here is that if the best can collaborate, what is stopping you. It’s a question for you to reflect on before I move on to the most important thing in collaboration.
When it comes to collaboration, choosing the right partners is the most important thing. In fact, it is the most valuable thing. Because collaboration is not about processes, technology, capital (yes, these things are important), but real collaboration is all about people, people and people.
The Authors wrote in their book about Pharrell Williams (record producer and singer of Happy – you should listen to this song – it’s one of my favourites) and his wisdom on collaboration. “The most valuable thing in business are human beings. Good ones are really hard to come by. And when you find them, you hold on to them. Everything else comes and goes but not good people. So, you want yourself to be surrounded with people you trust. When challenges arise, your instincts and your reflexes tell you to listen to them.”
Because in your collaboration journey, you will face problems, some known and some unknown. In good to great times, everything is forgiven but it is during tough times that real partners and collaborators support you with everything they have. They get into the trenches with you. They treat you as their own and truly care for you.
If such is the power of real collaboration, what is indeed stopping you?
It’s high time you answered this question (to yourself).