Somehow I managed to get all the way through High School without really taking a Chemistry or Physics class.

Hard to imagine, I know.

But I was in high school  during the permissive days of educational experimentation that insisted on few "distribution requirements" and encouraged things like "class clusters, open classrooms, independent portfolio studies and lots of other jargony-sounding approaches to doing whatever the hell you wanted.  And, by the way, I went to a good high school in a good town with plenty of money to spread around the school system. This wasn't a plan for how to cope in a time of shrinking resources. Nope. It was Summerhill Gone Wild, in some respects.   Fortunately, I knew that I wanted to go to college and that there were some basics that I'd need to get:  4 years of a foreign language, the "College track" in English Lit and Comp and just enough Math to make me attractive to a liberal arts college. ( 2 years of algebra and a  long, tear-stained year of Geometry.)

So what else did I study?

I read lots and lots and lots of great books.  English lit.

I wrote a lot. ( I managed to pull off 3 semesters of independent study in creative writing.)

I took Art History and Music.  Lots of those.

Some Humanities and Anthropology and History and Psychology... and Ethics.

And a smidge of Biology ( because I loved dissection).


But no hard core sciences.


When I got to college, I took lots of music and art history and... I became a Psychology major. THEN I had my affair with Statistics.  Three courses, I believe. What might have seemed to some to be a 'soft science,' my college was all about toughening up this Social Science of Psychology and building its muscles on the rigors of probability, Standard Deviation, Normal Distribution,critical value, Degrees of Freedom and other mind numbing ideas.   More tears.


So- you can imagine my delight when I recently discovered the myriads of research on the new "SCIENCE" of Collaboration.

It started last spring when, with a giant thud,  Amazon dropped Wenger, Mcdermott and Snyder's Cultivating Communities of Practice (Harvard Press, 2003) on my front porch.  It was a great read and helped to set me up for the work ahead. Since then, I have read articles with titles like "Productivity in Collaboration-Information Knowledge Work: The Collaboration Management Imperative" (Kristensen and Kigl, 2009) and "Team Worker Hetereogenity: An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Teams on Productivity and Participation." (Hamilton,Nickerson and Owan, 2003)

 Really cool stuff.   And, this past fall, Harvard Business Review devoted an entire issue to the theme of Collaboration.  I'm stilll wending my way through that tome.

If this interests you as much as it does me ( if it didn't, you'd probably have clicked away from this blog already and gone off to fry up an egg for breakfast or something,).... please know that I am in the process of digesting this good stuff and preparing a series of talks- maybe one coming to a place near you.  I am a guest at a March gathering in Western Mass for Clergy and Vestries, I 've gotten an invitation by the ECW CT Board, and will be chatting it up with Fresh Start and the good people of Mystic, too. 

Now, here are some take aways:

After all the statistics and studies, after all the bell graphs and 'analyses of variance' against the 'confounding factor,' it comes down to this:

1. It's all about relationships.

2. It's about giving freely and receiving with grace and gratitude.


yup.  Now that's not gonna win me the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, (the award that's considered the "Nobel Prize of psychology") but... it may help me encourage some folks in the Diocese of Connecticut to see that Collaboration is not only a good thing to help advance God's Mission, but it's not rocket science, either.


When we  come to know the "Other" we feel a sense of community and connection.  We are less apt to stay isolated and more eager to form new ways of working together.

The work itself involves a two-way exchange.  One gives and another receives.  We give ideas, energy, time, imagination, and our individual gifts.  And we must be willing to receive those gifts in a spirit of openness, vulnerability and with grace.

Often, it turns out, naming our needs and receivng the gifts of others is the more difficult work.

All of this, of course, is done from a place of Christian compassion and to the Glory of God.  We might not say that out loud, but, hey, isn' that why we're in this biz in the first place?

The Chemistry of Collaboration, it turns out, isn't that hard to figure, and,yet, to bear fruit, it requires a mindfulness and openness to which most of us need call on the Holy Spirit to support.

Come, Holy Spirit.  There's plenty of work to be done.




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Comment by Gail Lebert on February 12, 2012 at 12:46pm

Hi there,-

As an English major myself, and one who often turns to books for inspiration and education, I relate to what you say.

What really stands out for me is the challenge of being able to name our needs and accept gifts from others.  Thanks for getting me thinking about what that means and how to ask the Holy Spirit for learning  - I'd love to hear others and their tips on the how tos of naming our needs and accepting gifts from others.  Blessings.

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