Collaboration is a process of creating shared benefits. It’s also a process of co-evolution, of growing and adapting. Business punditry too often presents collaboration as a thing, or, worse, as a single event.

It’s a complex, dynamic process governed by our conversations.

Yet, few leaders understand how to design and guide strategic conversations. That stands to reason.

Until recently, we could not describe the skills. Sure, we all ran into people who were good collaborators. But their knowledge of collaboration was implicit…they could not really describe what they were doing. They could not teach someone else.

We have been left with the occasional bromide — like Henry Ford’s “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

It took over 20 years of field work and complex testbeds to uncover and verify the skills that lead to productive collaborations. The key insight: collaborations emerge from strategic conversations with an underlying structure and simple rules. Each rule implies a skill.

Learning these skills has a huge productivity benefit: less time in wasted meetings; the end of foggy accountability; a disciplined process of learning and adaptation.

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