What generally happens is this: after a moment of hesitation, a quiet room begins to buzz with energy and connections—all based on having a world of things in common. Things like those in the following list:
The Power of Ten Things
A simple starting point for reinventing collaboration. . .
–Our family, our birth order, and the number of children, grandchildren and/or siblings we have. . .
–Where we come from and the places we’ve lived. . .
–Where we went to school and what we studied. . .
–Music we listen to or instruments we play. . .
–Favorite foods and whether or not we like to cook. . .
–Travel and our favorite places to get away. . .
–Hobbies and things we like to do in our free time. . .
–Volunteering we do to make the world a better place. . .
–Our favorite season or seasons of the year. . .
–Our spiritual beliefs or religion and their role in our lives. . .
–Our pets. . .
–The sports we play or love to watch. . .
–The cars we drive. . .
–Things we like to read and watch on TV. . .
–People we admire. . .
–Our favorite movies of all time. . .
–Our favorite colors. . .
–Whether we are neat or messy, late or on time. . .
–And any number of other areas of interest that come up when two people make the time to connect.
This exercise is actually rather easy to do. In fact, I bet that each of us could be paired with any other person in the world and—assuming that language was not a barrier or that, if it was, we had an interpreter in the seat behind us—we would, in a few short minutes, find at least ten things we had in common. Ten things that would begin to build a bond. Ten things that make others a lot more like us than we ever imagined. Ten reasons why we would be more inclined to collaborate with them than not. Ten things that would make almost all of our stereotypes about them and the role they play drift away. Ten things that could spark new ideas and perspectives, based on our shared interests outside of work, that could be brought to bear in our work lives and efforts to make our companies and organizations more remarkable.
This is the power of ten things.
Once you’ve done the exercise with one colleague, then you could do it with another, and another, until you become part of creating a culture of conversation that is a far more powerful driver of collaboration than anything else that you or your company could do. Collaboration takes place face-to-face between humans who are open to connecting and sharing the things they know.
And then, now that some of the barriers have been reduced, you continue these conversations, to include the world of work, what other people do, the things they know best, the things they would like to know more about, the things that concern them most, and the way they look at problems and opportunities. New conversations begin to identify areas in which you can work together to think in new and more collaborative ways, and also allow you to think about who else to involve in your efforts. In a company or organization filled with strangers, commit to making everyone a real friend and colleague by wandering around and having conversations that matter.
Reprinted with permission from the publisher, Jossey-Bass, a Wiley brand. Copyright © 2013 by Alan Gregerman.