Collaboration Nation: On the art of thinking ‘bananas’

Self-employed in publishing

This is a guest post from Jasmin Kirkbride. Jasmin is a regular blogger for BookMachine and Editorial Assistant at Periscope Books (part of Garnet Publishing). She is also a published author and you can find her on Twitter @jasminkirkbride

Collaboration is the rage at the moment, yet the misleadingly straightforward word can hide a minefield of possible pitfalls: how do you reach out to others to start collaborating? And once you’ve formed a partnership, how do you maintain your needs and vision whilst still allowing for those of others? Collaboration can be pretty scary if you haven’t tried it before and if you’ve had a bad experience, it can be even more intimidating.

So what’s the answer? According to workshop leader Jamie Catto, the key is to think bananas!

Unrealistic expectations

According to Catto, and numerous psychological studies, we have reached a state of business in recent years where we all expect ourselves to be perfect but, not only is this perfect ideal unattainable, it actually harms our ability to reach our full potential.

Moreover, by expecting perfection from ourselves and others, we drive ourselves into a state of fear and stress: what happens if someone finds out that we are not perfect? We are effectively pressure-cooking ourselves every time we step into the workplace, not to mention keeping the door firmly closed on our creativity, where our individual ‘fruitcakeiness’ is most likely to be found out.

This makes collaboration even at the smallest level very difficult because we are communicating between projected fronts beset by anxiety, rather than actual people. Forget multi-national deals, we have difficulty even figuring out who’s supposed to refill the photocopy paper!

The last workplace taboo: being our authentic selves

There seems to be a concern that if we break down these walls of expectation and become our authentic selves that we will suddenly all be running amok without direction. In fact, the opposite is true: once we let go of our fears, we are uniquely able to bring imaginative, original ideas to the table. We have the breathing space to become really good at what we do and even – dare I say it – enjoy it!

At this year’s Independent Publishers’ Guild (IPG) Spring Conference, Euan Semple went on record once again as saying that nobody online wants to engage with a corporation, they want to engage with other human beings. One person to another, the best engagement seems to happen when both parties are communicating honestly. Real success in any collaboration – whether with the person at the desk next door to yours or a stockist in Antarctica – happens by being truly authentic.

So why the bananas?

This is the crucial bit: authenticity by itself isn’t quite enough. Euan Semple went on to say that love makes the internet go round: it is only by being mindful of others that our authentic selves can really shine. That’s where Catto’s bananas come in.

If you put a banana in a bowl of fruit, it will ripen the other fruit. If a person is their true, authentic self, warts and all, and is engaged in aware communication with others, they hand everyone around them a permission slip to become their creative, authentic, fearless selves as well. That is when the real collaborative gold happens.

Collaboration looks set to revolutionise the way we think about business practices over the next few years. With the digital revolution shifting the boundaries of what is possible and what is normal, we will increasingly find ourselves working with previously unimaginable partners engaged in some pretty out-there campaigns. The key to making that work is honesty, kindness, and being just a little bit bananas.

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