Do your best ideas come in two stages?
Maybe that’s where collaboration fits: between.
A story: In second grade we all had to talk about what we did over the summer. I wrote a story that included lots of driving to far-away parts of the U.S. I wrote about camping and swimming and mountains and lakes and trees.
When finished, I read it to myself and thought, “This is boring.”
So I went back at it and remembered mishaps along the way. Flat tires and people falling into lakes and instances of poor judgment from my brothers. Especially instances of poor judgment from my brothers. Then I started inserting instances of poor judgment all over the story and it got very, very interesting.
When I gave my speech to my second grade class, the instances of poor judgment got the biggest laughs.
Today I write stuff for a living, so I think in terms of drafts: There’s the rough draft, with all its heartache, hollering and hoopla just to wrestle a topic onto my screen. There’s the review with a stakeholder/client/colleague. Then there is the excellent revision. The goal is the excellent revision. But few people can begin with the good stuff that came out of the revision.
But you need not write stuff to realize that first ideas can often be improved by a clear-eyed, objective second glance. And often that clear-eyed glance, especially from someone hearing it for the first time, can tell you a lot about where the idea needs to go next. What your reviewer sees or doesn’t see, what causes them to pause, what causes them to guffaw, what causes them to restate or reread—all this is grist for the revision. And revisions are potent parts of the process.
With my clients I am very up front about wanting them to review a draft on the way to the final. And that is how I present it—I’ll write this thing and then you’ll look at it and give me your scathing criticism. And together we’ll move toward what we wanted all along. And the final will be that much better.
That’s what collaboration looks like to me: at least a two-stage process.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston