My grandfather didn’t yell. He never really felt the need. His authoritative voice was so awe-inspiring that trying to do anything against his wishes was ill advised. I knew him as the man who built and fixed computers and read every science fiction book in the library (literally, he only read the new arrivals because he had been through the entire backlog of SciFi books). The one time that I heard him raise his voice in reference to me was when I was trying to shove a hair brush into a glove compartment. I tried to push the door closed as hard as possible, slamming it in order to try and get it to shut. My grandpa forcefully told me to stop. With equal force, but a little less volume, he proceeded to show me that there was something in the way of me shutting it. He said that I should never force something to work. I should figure out why I won’t work, fix it, and then try again.
I was humbled by this particularly astute advice, as if it should have been something that I innately knew. Being all of nine at the time, I’m not entirely sure why my embarrassment was so acute. It was always been hard for me to not try and force things to work. In the end, I always thought that it would be easier to force them instead of figuring out the root cause of the discord. On that day, in my mother’s van, I knew what it meant to be wrong and to know it. I knew what it meant to take a step back and reflect on what I was doing and then change my action to produce a better result. I also knew what it meant to see that someone else might want the same things for me and that it may take their advice in order to get those things to happen.
I wonder sometimes, if I have continued to heed his expert advice, especially when it comes to collaboration. Whenever I see that someone else is doing something similar to me or whenever I see a smart person who may have similar interests, I try and make our efforts dovetail. Perhaps this is just me wanting to make sure that we are not duplicating efforts. Maybe it is just my need to co-author ideas. Whatever the reason, I seem to find connections where others do not. Sometimes it works out and beautiful creations come, but other times the collaborations fizzle because they were based only on my perception of a situation. It is in those moments of fading collaborative spirit that I feel as though I should probably force the hair brush one more time to see if I can close the deal without too much readjustment.
Given that this rarely works well for long, inevitably I have to reassess and either change my priorities or ask someone else to change theirs. These efforts are sometimes futile, but I learn a lot from them. I learn how ideas can come together and what each one needs to survive. I learn that different perspectives can inform decisions more than identical ones. Companies and Schools were not created because everyone had the same investments and interests.
And yet, I keep on searching for those individuals and organizations that want the same things as I do. I keep on wishing that I wouldn’t have to force the door closed with any of them. And every once in a while, I stumble and fall headlong directly into one of those situations. A perfect storm of time and space where efforts really do dovetail.
It happened just this week for me:
I found Mindquilt on Twitter. Their tagline is Ask, Tag, Send, Answer. They provide software for companies to share the institutional knowledge through asking and answering questions, game dynamics, and expert-matching. This means that anyone in an organization who asks a question will be matched up with someone else based upon the tags within the question and that they both get points and badges (a la FourSquare) for the entire process of finding a solution. Finding this was scary in terms of what I am trying to do with Open Spokes. But what made everything suddenly okay was that the CEO of the company contacted me about what I was doing a few hours later. He had found me through the same mutual Twitter follower without knowing it.
Even this early on in our collaboration, we have started discussing just how our two ventures are working toward similar goals from different points of view. We have been able to start the process of dovetailing our efforts, and all because we were open to that prospect. We haven’t forced anything, and don’t need to. We have both assessed the situation and removed the obstruction for going forward. We got all of the forced work out of our systems, so now we can just talk and plan and create. I like that.
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