Archive for the ‘coooperation’ Category

Astute comments from comics

July 7, 2009

Last week I read and was moved by Joe Sacco’s engagingly intense graphic novel “Palestine”. It chronicles Sacco’s travels throughout the the area known as Palestine- the west bank and Gaza. He meet with a number of Palestinans, listening to them and documenting their stories from during the time of the second intifada (around 1993). Unfortunately, I found that his experiences and stories concur with my own experiences – from the time that served in the IDF in the West Bank in the mid-late 70s and from the period of the first intifada (1988) when I was wondering around the same towns that I had served as a soldier, only this time as an artist and witness. I say unfortunate because it is a tragedy of epic proportions- each side making blunder after horrible blunder, enslaving each other to oppression, hate, pain and bloodshed.
One encounter in Sacco’s book that I was deeply touched by occured towards the end of the book In it he recollects a meeting with several people- Israeli Jews, Palestinians, Americans and Europeans. One Israeli is quoted as saying that one state or two states does not matter. What does it matter if the racism of one state oppresses the other. What is important, he says, is if the different peoples there can simply learn to live with each other. A wise comment, almost Buddhist in nature- can we manage to let go of our personal pains and learn to live with each other even with our differences.

Bye Bye Studs

October 31, 2008

I am saddened by the news of the death of Studs Terkel, one of my favorite authors. He was populist and FDR liberal who never gave up the good fight. I listened to him on the radio and read, enjoyed and learned from his books. “The Great War” introduced me to stories of people on the front lines of WWII- men, women, soldiers and civilians. Vastly engaging.

One of my favorite interviews, one that I first heard and then read was transforming. He spoke with a man from the deep south who had been filled with hate and anger. This man had been a leader in the klu klux klan- he was vicious, racist, anti-semitic, anti-union, but through a series of events found himself on a school board, partnered with an African-American woman. They worked together, learned from each other and became life-long friends. The white man eventually finished his high school diploma and ran for a political office and won- partly from the support of the local African-American community. They were able to recognize that person can change and can redeem their past. Eventually this man died, suffering from alzheimer’s disease. But I remember seeing a photograph of this old man, sitting in a wheel chair holding the hand of the African-American woman who helped him learn dignity and respect.

Back to collaborate and cooperate

June 18, 2008

Driving in to work this morning, I was again ruminating on the meanings of collaborate and cooperate. It seems to me that cooperate infers people meeting together so share resources to further their own specific projects or shared goals that are similar, whereas with collaboration, people join together to create something that is completely new and often out of the direct realm of influence or expertise. The sum of the project is really more than the individual parts. This is probably a pretty esoteric distinction, because in the end, it is really about individuals abilities to join forces and expertises.
I also thought a bit about the process of collaboration again and forgot one of the most important components of successful collaborations- a sense of humor.

Apollo 13 and creative solutions

June 6, 2008

In the movie “Apollo 13” there is a great scene that really illustrates creative collaboration and even a project-based learning scenario.  The scientists on the ground have just learned about the problems aboard the space capsule and are given the emergency assignment of finding a solution.  So the scientists are ossed in a room with a whole bunch of objects that are found in the Apollo spacecraft: tape, ducts, pipes and tubes, whatever. There they are- engineers, stuff, a problem and a time frame. Their creativity and ability to cooperate on finding a solution let to their success in bringing back the astronauts alive. Very cool. 

Definitions

June 5, 2008

I just looked up the definition of “collaborate” on dictionary.com and was surprised on how many negative connotations are associated with the word, such as “to cooperate, usually willingly, with an enemy nation, esp. with an enemy occupying one’s country”, “collude”, “To cooperate treasonably, as with an enemy occupation force in one’s country”. Although there are several more positive meanings such as “to work, one with another; cooperate, as on a literary work” and the etymology states that “collaborator (1802), from Fr. collaborateur, from L. collaboratus, pp. of collaborare “work with,” from com- “with” + labore “to work.”, WWII has left an imprint of  the word as “traitorous cooperation with the enemy,” dates from 1940, originally in reference to the Vichy Government of France.”

What an unfortunate chain of events for such a fine concept. It is time to rehab the meaning so that it leaves it’s destructive past and joins the ranks of it’s more positive and successful cousin “cooperate” , whose primary meanings are :

  1. to work or act together or jointly for a common purpose or benefit.
  2. to work or act with another or other persons willingly and agreeably.
  3. to practice economic cooperation.

How to rise up horizontally

June 5, 2008

I heard an interesting story on NPR this morning about an woman architect in Karachi by the name of Parveen Rehman. She works for the Orangi Pilot Project which helps poor people to build their own homes and even utilities systems. She also works to enhance the status of women in a male-dominated society by teaching architecture in a local school to women.

She said some pretty remarkable things. About “the project’s male founder, who spoke of the power of women. He compared himself to a grandmother — “not your grandfather, because your grandmother gives love … and through love she’s able to encourage and make people grow.”

And of particular interesting to me and my research about the nature of collaboration:
“I feel sometimes — not with men and women — with any group, if you come just upfront and try to be … the person taking credit for everything, that’s where things start going wrong,” she says. Once you rise up horizontally, you take everybody with you. But if you want to rise vertically, you will rise, but then nobody will be there for you.”

Building Collaborations

June 5, 2008

I have been reading a lot about successful collaborations in many different environments, such as businesses, academic, technology, building and more. Most of the articles and books provide examples that are very good arguments for why cooperative projects work. Wikinomics by Don Tapscott begins the book with a great example about a Canadian gold mining company turned around its loosing operation after the president attended a workshop on open source technology. He applied the lessons learned and opened up much of the companied proprietary data about some of its under-performing properties. He realized that the company itself did not posses the human resources to really expand, so he offered a prize for best ideas. His solution worked and he was able to able to increase the value of the company from $100 million to $9 billion. The winning ideas came from a wide range of disciplines.

In his 2005 TED talk (http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/216), Howard Rheingold speaks about how humankind has followed a couple different paths. One has been about destruction, the other is about cooperation. He provides many examples how human society is really more of a cooperative endeavor (although I think that sometimes it is hard to see). Nothing that exists today really came out of a vacuum of an individual, but rather out a web of individuals working together. One story that I often think of is about a party that I attended several years ago. It was held at a really cool remodeled Victorian house in N. California. The friend who I went with told me that the owner had done the work. At the time I was working as a carpenter and after looking at the details of the work, I went to congratulate the owner on his fine work. I was not really surprised when he told me that he did not do any of the work, but rather paid a crew to work. I completely understood his (and my friend’s view), yet I could not help but to think that it would have been more interesting to me if he had described it as a collaborative project. This would have celebrated the talents and skills involved in producing such fine work.
Perhaps I made something bigger then it was, but I am always impressed about how individuals with individual strengths and talents can come together to make something that is larger than the sum of their individual work.

Reflecting on these and other examples of successful collaboration (open source software, farming, movie making, just about everything), I wonder about the basic building blocks necessary to make cooperation work. I think that one of the most important components is for individuals to check their egos at the door when working on a cooperative endeavor. This does not mean that I feel that there is no room for individual creativity. I think that each person has a place to really shine in what they do. But more often then not, one person cannot do everything at the same level.

When I began working in new media in 1990, it was called interactive multi-media. There was no web (Internet-yes, web- no) and one talented person could do just about everything. But as the technology developed (as well as user expectations), specialties also developed for video, audio, data base, graphics, content development, subject matter experts, and more. Each task and discipline has its own tools, process and language. It really is like a huge jigsaw puzzle- it really does take a lot of pieces to make it complete.

As individuals understand this, they can begin to see how their strengths are all necessary and vital to a project. They can possibly begin to learn to trust the other experts and professionals to do their parts and that the complete project and process only benefit from this cooperation.