The Joy of Collaborative Effort

 Doug Makaroff of Living Forest Communities shares his thoughts on collaboration - one of our favorite concepts!

 The Joy of Collaborative Effort

As a canoe guide in Northern Saskatchewan, I used to teach teens that the key to speed and efficiency is timing and working together. Both paddlers need to take simultaneous short powerful strokes with reciprocal transfers of weight over the gunwales. Without precision and balance, the canoe lurches and weaves. And at worst a young paddler falls out. But when paddling is done well by experienced trippers it is a thing of beauty, and precision trumps pure muscle. This is my metaphor for business collaboration in 2010.

A few weeks ago I did a joint presentation with Paul Richardson, of Renewal2, to a room full of well read, intelligent impact investors. A few nights later I did another joint presentation with two more companies, both leaders within their sector of SRI. Bill Weaver's annual Media that Matters multi-disciplinary conference is now called a "collaboratory". In all of these events, as we freely share our stories and challenges, the audience engages, roles change and rather than being just a sales pitch, the interaction and exit surveys transform the message in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. From all of these events, we leave much stronger and more focused.

Outside of SVI, SVN or Hollyhock, I doubt that this degree of transparency, cooperation and collaboration has happened much in the past decade. But I believe that there is a new era of corporate humility where building on another company's fine grained experience in social responsibility and stewardship is permitted and respected.

In contrast to this, there is also a lot of noise around businesses venturing wildly into the web 2.0 space, with the wrong usage of crowdsourcing, twitter and facebook. Companies are paying for volume, hits and fans without much impact. Or returning to the canoeing metaphor there is a lot of splashing, lurching and weaving.  Some of the new technologies and platforms are leading to greater distraction and wasted effort.

As for me and our team at Living Forest Communities, we are focusing on finding other experienced paddlers, where we can find a common rhythm and learn to pull with precision together.  The networks growing around Renewal, SVN, and B corp are very valuable to thoughtful companies seeking balance in an unbalanced world.  The upcoming party promises to be one of these platforms from which to launch meaningful collaborative efforts. I look forward to meeting other great people making a difference.

And hopefully, no one at Joel and Dana's place will be permitted to use the canoe metaphor.

Doug Makaroff