Collaboration is in your genes!

September 29, 2011 - 00:33 -- Dr. Ada

Team Work

Have you ever thought that collaboration IS the natural way to relate, because it's in your genes? That's what I learned last week and want to share with you.

I was in Fort Worth Texas, attending the Annual Conference of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. The conference was on “The Science of Relationships.” We had a great lineup of presenters looking with different lenses: anthropology, neuroscience, social media and the new technologies, communication, etc. For the opening plenary we had an interesting presentation by an anthropologist, Dr. Meredith F. Small.

Collaboration and survival

Dr. Small posits that we are born to be cooperative. It's in our genes. She presented the hypothesis that primitive humans survived because they learned to cooperate. And that cooperation, collaboration, is really the basis of family and of society.

When she was talking about survivors being the ones who learned to cooperate she was talking about everybody in the groups, or tribes. For example, the males found they survived better if they went together to hunt bigger prey. The women survived better if they shared gathering, child rearing, cooking, and household tasks.

Men and women survived best by cooperating: some brought meat, others cooked it. Some brought in hides, others prepared clothes. They cooperated sexually, bringing new members to the group.

Collaboration in business

Taking all that into the realm of today's society, businesses where people learn to cooperate, or collaborate, or innovate, or co-create together, will have the competitive advantage, regardless of who does what. Insisting in divisions based on sexual lines or other such criteria is continuing the same mental pattern of division, not cooperation.

Dr. Small point is that the survival of our society, our planet, our communities, our countries, our families, our children, continues to depend more on cooperation. We can even cooperate while competing (as is easily exemplified in team sports).

Therefore, it's not a matter of differences or commonalities. We need both. Diversity is positive for cooperation, if we don't use it for division.

We need to approach each other on equal footing as equally valuable members of our group. But that does not mean everybody ought to think alike, or agree on everything. What it means is that we will be smart enough to use our diversity of thought for the common good.

We need a "paradigm shift" in thinking about the leadership, teaching and learning mindset. The businesses that will survive will be those that cooperate in finding innovative ways of solving problems and challenges.

Share your thoughts

I would love to know what you think about collaboration, so please share your thoughts with your fellow readers and myself.

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Photo by: Budzlife