Collaboration in Overdrive

I am interested in collaborative decision-making. This blog is called wiser decisions faster. It’s therefore not surprising that I am fascinated by the speed at which people are cooperating to get things done during this COVID-19 outbreak.

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Here are a few examples on my radar, of so very many:

Open sourcing the technical specs for ventilators to make them more affordable and accessible quickly.

Fast tracking vaccine development (see Government of Canada and World Health Organization examples.)

Combining emergency community services such as food distribution, shelter, health care and addiction management (learn more about what’s being done in Waterloo and Guelph to provide food and shelter to vulnerable members of the community).

Rapidly expanding mental health supports digitally, including through apps and pharmacies.

Multiple levels of government from across the political spectrum joining forces to get emergency funding into the hands of those who need it most.

Making groceries available through restaurants and catering companies (check out Freshii, Little Mushroom Catering in Cambridge, and Sugo on Surrey in Guelph as examples).

Repurposing factories and distilleries to make face shields and hand sanitizer.

Creating new businesses to keep existing businesses afloat.

Mounting new websites and groups to share community-level information about how to care for others and get what you need.

This list could be so much longer and is growing daily. The examples of ingenuity, generosity and practical problem solving are inspiring and prolific.

All of this has made me curious about what has led to this ability and willingness to collaborate at speed.

Is it all about Maslow? The globe is operating at the base of his hierarchy — in survival mode — and the urgency at that level propels us to act more quickly and decisively than usual, including being willing to remove or ignore barriers that used to slow us down.

(Interestingly, some newer work on that hierarchy puts belonging and social connectedness at the foundational layer, since that’s often how we achieve our physiological needs for food and shelter. We’re certainly experiencing the resonance of that these days!)

We’re also better able to focus when the noise and busyness clear. The principles in The One Thing or Essentialism are much easier to implement when a bunch of your options and distractions are removed. I can’t go anywhere, and my calendar is empty for the foreseeable future — what should or can get my attention now?

Depending on our line of work, our colleagues are mostly available too — we can reach people more easily to talk about possibilities.

I’m also noticing that we are tapping into international networks more, now that everyone is working digitally. If we’re all online, why should I limit my contact to people I can meet with in person? I realize this approach has long been available to us, but  we are leveraging it more effectively now. It is inspiring to have greater [perceived] access to world class colleagues.

Even more than that, I think we are finding ourselves in the midst of a massive and fascinating cultural moment that is allowing us to say, on our good days, “What are the opportunities this topsy turvy world presents?” If schools and professional sports leagues and parks and borders are closed — things we never thought possible — what else might be possible?

It’s not easy to get perspective when you’re right in the middle of the story. When it comes to accelerated collaboration, it may be a bit early to discern what’s working, what’s not, and why. But I’d love to hear your examples of it happening and your reflections on what’s contributing to our ability to get things done together now in ways that we seemingly couldn’t just a couple of months ago.

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