A proposed “Philosophy of Collaboration”

Would love your thoughts on the below.

Any improvement in the challenge of ideological intolerance will necessitate a movement among a critical mass of the populous toward embracing the importance of working together on our problems, as opposed to fomenting division.  We need to appreciate the need for productive collaboration.  How do we influence such a mental shift?

It must at least begin with a convincing philosophy guiding how one should behave if one agrees that encouraging collaboration is important.  For those skeptical of even the value of working with differing viewpoints, I am separately authoring an explanation of why that is in our interests (future blog post).  But assuming that collaboration were the starting objective, I suggest that a philosophy then follows (which I hope you’ll give me feedback on):

Philosophy of Collaboration

  • If we believe we are better off united than divided, that implies we need to behave in a collaborative way.
  • Behaving collaboratively necessitates at least the following:
    • Have humility. Have the humility to acknowledge that until we gather sufficient information on a potential partner, we do not truly know them.  Even if one trusts the media as impartial, they are necessarily reporting in broad strokes about large groups, not about specific people we are likely to interact with.  We don’t know actual people’s character until we dig deeper.
    • Resist prejudice.  If we accept that we don’t initially know a potential partner, avoid pre-judging them until we do.  If we hope to collaborate with another, it is self-defeating to contrive beforehand, without sufficient insight, that they are objectionable.
    • Persuade.  When we inevitably encounter differences with a partner, address these in a persuasive, rather than argumentative way.  Remember that the objective is to maintain a collaboration, and that implies the need to negotiate through differences using persuasion — encouraging another to move with you —  as opposed to division — alienating them to move away from you.  Specifically:
      • Seek to understand the partner and its interests.
      • Encourage the partner to keep an open mind toward one’s viewpoints.
        • Avoid putting the partner on the defensive.
        • If possible, steer clear of offending cultural sensitivities.
      • Perhaps most importantly, the above two imply keeping an open mind oneself to the partner’s viewpoints.  One cannot expect the partner to open its mind if one is unwilling to do so oneself.  And one  will not meaningfully learn the partner’s character if one is not genuinely, objectively listening.
    • Socialize.  Humans are social animals; it’s how we build trust, understanding and loyalty.  There is a reason sales people take prospects out for beers.  Try it.

Admittedly, executing these behaviors is difficult.  We have our own instincts that make us defensive and aggressive.  But consider, our objective is not to win an argument or feel good about being right.  Our objective is to persuade a partner to work with us toward mutual benefit.  Being right is not the win we seek.  Mutually benefiting in a way we are both comfortable with is the win.

If one cannot always do these things — who has the time? — that is perfectly understandable, as long as one then also acknowledges that one has not done them.  That is, resist counter-productively judging another person if one has not invested in the steps necessary to be able to do so accurately.  The goal remains mutually-beneficial collaboration, so if, in the absence of sufficient information, one needs to err toward a positive or negative preconception of the other, the self-serving choice is actually the positive preconception.

The above is a bit long-winded; a lot to digest.  As an attempt to more concisely package it, I’ve distilled it down into tight, Twitter-inspired bullet points and presented these in an animated GIF, shown below.  Love your insights on that as well.

Please feel free to offer reaction, either as responses to this post, or in the DISCUSS! forum I set up for this topic, located here: Feedback on the Philosophy of Collaboration

Philosophy of collaboration


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Thoughts from across the aisle...

“A family from Mexico who arrived here this morning, legally, has as much right to the American dream as the direct descendants of the founding fathers. … when the blood of the sons of immigrants and the grandsons of slaves fell on foreign fields, it was American blood. In it you could not read the ethnic particulars of the soldier who died next to you. He was an American. And when I think of how we learned this lesson, I wonder [how] we could have unlearned it.”

— Bob Dole, 11-year Senate Majority Leader (R-KS), WW2 purple heart veteran

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