Friday, March 16, 2012

Collaboration: What is it Good For?

I've been thinking a lot about the word collaboration lately. It's certainly part of my daily lexicon along with synergy, streamline, low-hanging fruit, and best practices. If you've ever been confused by TPS reports you know what I'm talking about. The word "collaboration" is more than simple cubicle jargon. It has a very powerful impact (because I don't understand affect/effect) both positive and negative. Collaboration is a conundrum.

Americans in Paris, written by Charles Glass, is a look at Americans living in Paris under Nazi Occupation. It must have been a terrible time to be anywhere in Europe unless you were German. Paris is the City of Light and Americans living there prior to the occupation enjoyed a cultured life with great writers, great music, and legal booze. Some of the main characters in this book prove the "Greatest Generation" theorem. Others, not so much. The subplot is the plight of French civilians who were generally divided into three groups - those in the resistance movement, collaborators, and everybody else. It didn't get terribly awful for Americans until after Pearl Harbor and our subsequent entry into the Allied effort. It was a little more complicated for the French who did not enjoy the same immunity as their American friends. As I read this book, I find myself wondering where I would have fallen on that continuum whether American or French.  I like to think that I would serve the resistance efforts but I would probably have been part of the vast majority just struggling to survive (the weather, the occupation, the horror). I take some comfort in knowing I would not have been a collaborator. Collaborators worked with the Nazi occupiers. Some did so shamelessly others more covertly. Collaboration -1  

I took this picture!
This week, President Obama and the First Lady welcomed Great Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife. I had the honor of being one of more than 7,000 on the White House grounds to welcome the very same folks that 200 years ago tried to burn the place down. Both the President and the Prime Minister noted the irony and made a few corny jokes before reminding us of the the great collaboration between Great Britain and the United States over the last 199 years. They used words like "alliance" and "partnership" but I prefer collaboration because none of this happens if you're not working together. The obvious example of collaboration here is World War II, given the theme established in the above paragraph. Other examples include military efforts on the Korean Peninsula and the current fight against terrorism. Military collaboration is an easy one. I was struck by Prime Minister Cameron's comments on financial investments - for example, the Gates Foundation working with NGOs in Great Britain or that Great Britain investments in the United states amount to more than 100 times more than China. Collaboration +1

Of course, the best possible positive use of the word is associated with beer. Collaboration Not Litigation is born from the good use of "collaboration". Seems that way back when Avery Brewing Company and Russian River Brewing both had a Salvation Ale. Rather than get into a beer pong match over naming rights the brewers combined the best of both and it's as good as advertised. We're enjoying Batch #6 bottled in the first month of this year. The taste is big, malty, and tangy-sweet. It's a bit sticky and lingers in your mouth for a spell. The beer is copper in color and leaves sexy lacing all the way down your glass (that's right, sexy). And, it comes in a bomber. I love bombers. Collaboration +1

As an American I believe in rugged individualism, pulling up the boot straps, and lonely cowboys riding off into the sunset. As a human, I believe in collaboration (by at least a 2-1 margin). Nobody gets anywhere without help from somebody else.  Sometimes working with others just helps you get through the day and sometimes it results in a really great beer.

This one too!

No comments: