How Is Collaborative Intelligence Useful?

“The future may depend less on your expertise and more upon your capacity to connect with others who think differently.” So argues Dawna Markova in her useful book Collaborative Intelligence (2015).

In many ways this is an excellent book. Extremely useful to me. Just not, perhaps, in the ways its author intended! Let me explain. 

The book sets out Markova’s prescription for improving individuals’, teams’ and organisations’ collaborative capability. She divides her approach into four “strategies”:

  1. Mind patterns 
  2. Thinking talents
  3. Inquiry
  4. Mind share.

Let’s look at these in reverse order. For me, that’s most useful first. 

4. Mind share. I *love* this section, which sets out the case for collaboration, in preference to competition, as a way of working in the current VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) climate. With plenty of stories and figures, plus quotable quotes, I’ll be treating this as a reference text in my own talks and writing about “Collaborative Influence”.

Perhaps even more interesting is Markova’s recommendation for moving people’s mindset from competition to collaboration, from market share to mind share. She reckons you should address three aspects: attention, intention and imagination.

  • Attention: tune up for “neural synchrony” by developing paying-attention skills, especially the skill of being in the present
  • Intention: support yourself and others to be specific about what they want, and to say it out loud
  • Imagination: open minds, evoke a vision of a possible positive future, and take action towards it.

If you know Clean Language you’re ahead of me here. This is just what we do!

It’s great to have such a well argued case for the value of Clean – even if that wasn’t the author’s intention.

Let me share one more good idea from this section. How about creating a team Collaboration Handbook, in which each member shares details of their own Mind Patterns, Thinking Talents, how they know when they are being treated with respect etc? I’d like to do this Cleanly, with each person’s metaphors for working, thinking, inquiring, attending, imagining, concentrating etc at their best. 

3. Inquiry. “Inquiry is one of the most effective ways to bring about alignment of collective intention,” says Markova. Too right! 
Again, you’re probably ahead of me. Markova makes the case for inquiry: as a skill and as a practice for leaders, for facilitators, for team members. 

It’s a shame that the inquiry methods she recommends aren’t as elegant or precise, or as simple to learn and practice, as Clean Language. 

2. Thinking talents. In this section, Markova’s starting to lose me. Of course I agree that it’s a good idea to identify one’s thinking talents, and to form thinking partnerships with others. I just wouldn’t use a super-complicated 35-category system based on a commercial profiling tool (which dates back to the bad old days of left-brain-right-brain thinking) to do it. 

Why not just grab a metaphor? When you’re thinking at your best, you are like… what?”

1. Mind patterns. Again, there’s some really useful stuff here. One big idea I’m keeping, “Attention, like water, has several different ‘forms’ or states.” 

These forms are defined as:

  • Focussed – solid as a block of ice, concentrating on just one thing
  • Sorting – moving from outer awareness to inner awareness, making connections
  • Open – daydreaming and diffuse.

Now being aware of the three forms, which make intuitive sense, there’s obviously huge value to be had. Getting familiar with my own and others’ ways of attending in each of these ways – or any other ways we have – and finding out what sparks each of these states for each of us is going to be useful when it comes to working, learning, playing or living together.

But once again, I wouldn’t do it in the way Markova suggests. I wouldn’t seek to categorise people using the blunt instrument of VAK (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic). And I really wouldn’t add complications to the VAK model, whose main benefit was its simplicity.

If we want complicated, I remember that Charles Faulkner reckons there are 21 different senses lumped together in that “K”!

If, however, we want a simple way of finding out, and letting others’ know, how people do their thinking and use their attention, we’ve got one: Clean Language and metaphor. May I recommend it?

  • I’ve referred to Markova as the book’s author as it is written from her perspective, with her co-author Angie Macarthur named as the writer of specific included stories.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *