Cooperation or Collaboration? What’s the difference and why it matters more than ever?
Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
– Helen Keller
Imagine a day not too far in the future. You’re working with a new client, a person of wealth with a family she cares deeply about. Instead of the usual ritual of filling out a “fact finder” and adding a few “observations” to your notes, you arrange for your client to meet with a group that includes other advisors and your key staff members.
Before the meeting convenes, with your guidance and assistance the client has sent a “letter of collaboration” to each attendee, expressing her desire for each individual to fully share their experience and expertise, engage in an honest exchange of ideas, and commit to a collaborative process for the long-term benefit of her and her family. New and existing advisors are invited to participate as the client chooses. She asks everyone to “check their egos at the door” and enter into a co-creation process.
If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions
– Albert Einstein
Also before the meeting convenes, each attendee would have the opportunity to read and vet a set of pre-established working principles that you’ve co-created or adopted that would guide their ongoing interactions with the other advisors and your now mutual client. The underlying theme of this set of principles is to go beyond cooperation – that is, detached polite acceptance of other professionals’ work in exchange for their reciprocity – and instead invite participation in a loosely scripted dialogue about the client’s vision, values, and goals. It’s always about the client.
The challenge then is for this group of advisors to come together with the client and realize the latent synergy that their collective abilities represent. It takes both expressing ideas and listening; assertiveness and humility; embracing uncertainty and ambiguity; faith in the process. It could get messy. It could also be transformative.
Power and influence: things that should be obtained not for means of greed, nor pride, nor ego, but rather to ensure that in the right moment, when your wisdom and benevolence are required to keep humanity strong and united, you can deliver and orchestrate others toward the greater good.
– A. J. Darkholme