Thankful for lessons learned.

With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us in the United States, it’s traditional for people to give thanks for their blessings.  Rather than outline my gratitude for the joys I’ve experienced, I thought I’d use this week’s post to give thanks for some of the lessons I’ve learned recently.

1.  Never underestimate the power of smart people working together.  As 2013 winds to a close, I’m reminded of the numerous opportunities I’ve had to work with brilliant, dedicated colleagues this year.  I want to celebrate those magical, productive moments when everyone involved left their egos at the door, rolled up their sleeves and got to work.  Thank you for your hard work, your motivation, and your creative spirits.  And thank you for teaching me once more about the power of collaboration.

2.  Listen.  You’ll learn a lot.  While I’ve been involved with a number of collaborative efforts this year, a recent meeting with a diverse group of stakeholders still resonates with me.  While we assembled the group to get feedback on a program we’re developing, we left with something very different.  In the words of the great philosophers Jagger and Richards, “you can’t always get what you want.  But if you try sometimes, you just might find that you get what you need.”  While I’m sure that the Rolling Stones weren’t specifically singing about the power of listening more and talking less, the lesson still applies. To quote a lesser known proverb, “He who speaks, sows.  He who listens, reaps.”

3.  Credit the air in between.  When working with innovative, collaborative people, great ideas are bound to emerge.  For some, the natural tendency is trying to determine exactly from whom the idea emerged and assigning credit.  Most times, however, these ideas don’t belong to a single person but have emerged from the air in between the assembled.  Celebrate the magical energy that allowed the idea to emerge and get to work on making the idea happen.  Move past assigning credit and rejoice in the collaborative electricity that served as the catalyst for innovation to be born.

While this post has mostly focused on the lessons I’ve learned this year from working in collaborative communities, I also want to specifically thank those colleagues who have shared their expertise, their creativity and their time.   Each one of you has taught me lessons too numerous to mention here and your willingness to collaborate (and teach) is appreciated.  Thank you.

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