Collaboration happens when people meet. Meet sounds deceivingly simple. We show up at a meeting.

But ‘showing up’ involved moving from the way the world sees you to the way you see yourself. It involves sensemaking, reflective state, context, and the ability to respond to ambiguity. When we don’t show up to a collaboration, we’re asking our identity heuristic, our persona, to stand in for us. At that point, it does not matter if the other person has showed up, but it takes two to tango, as the saying goes.

When two personas meet, the best that can happen is an exchange, but not a collaboration. Personas trade products, they don’t build anything. It is a zero-sum equation. It is a meeting at sea, of two explorers on the way to nowhere.

Technology can limit or enhance our ability to show up, to the world, ourselves, and in collaboration. But it does not do anything to the inherent risk that comes with it. Boredom is risky, solitude can be degenerative, and opening up in vulnerability is scary. It is a process, with accumulative properties.

Our work should be a space for learning, of acquiring new ways of showing up. If all we do is reinforce existing ways of being, those will plateau and eventually decay.

Seeking collaboration in process, instead of only exchanging products, means we will open up the dialogue between the self and the identity, allow our collaborator to do the same, and put out generative work into the world.

Generative work is one that does not take from someplace else. It is additive, ‘raises all boats’, sort of speak. It teaches people how to fish instead of giving them a fish.


Terms:

  • Showing up: the ability to collaborate in openness, ambiguity and without a preexisting design

  • Persona: the way others see you, at a given context

Living glossary on Are.na