Why Planning Collaboration Is a Must: An Interview with Griffin Jones


Collaboration can bring chaos, but Griffin Jones explains in this insightful interview how proper planning can greatly reduce the chances of chaos while increasing the likelihood for success on many development projects.

Griffin Jones helps us see how collaboration can greatly increase the chance for success on a project, even where it might not be the best option. For those who may be skeptical of collaboration and fearful of the chaos that could come with it, Jones shows you how, in more situations than not, incorporating everyone’s opinions and strengths is the way to go.

Noel: What are some selling points for the benefits of collaboration that you would give someone who is perhaps having difficulty convincing others that it's the way to go on an upcoming project?

Griffin: For me, collaboration is a deep value that I was gifted from my father and other key mentors in my life. In my session I try to explain the value of collaboration using the TED talk “Lead Like the Great Conductors” by Itay Talgam. Collaboration is complex. I found that Talgam gave me a framework that allowed me to sort my own feelings and thoughts on the topic before I engaged others on the topic.

Let me illustrate via a story. Very early in my career, I thought I had all the smart answers. I wrote step-by-step instructions on how to do a particular set of complex tests. It took a lot of time to develop and I was very proud of it. When the twenty people in my lab started to use these procedures, they didn’t discover significant problems with the product to the degree of effort I had put in to them. That annoyed me given the sweat, effort, and cleverness I had put in to my creation. That annoyance was a lightning bolt moment for me. I realized that my creation’s effectiveness had collapsed, and I had to choose a different way. For me, it was that point of being open, in your heart of hearts, to recognize that you did good work at that moment in time, but the solution you produced all by yourself is not effective at this moment in time.

Often, you don’t fully understand the problem if you don’t take the time to sit in front of it and live with it. The people I worked with provided not just criticism, but interesting input and suggested other options I hadn’t thought of. My original creation was so clear. Like Riccardo Muti from the TED talk, too clear. When I allowed the individuals to contribute their thoughts and ideas to the skeleton of my testing procedure, it became much richer and effective.

Noel: Your upcoming session at STARCANADA is titled "Collaboration without Chaos." What are some of the warning signs that chaos may be on the horizon - in hopes that they may be spotted early enough to avoid/prevent them?

Griffin: One warning sign is when people or organizations have degraded their ability to self-heal - they can’t recognize problems, or consider many options, make choices, and then take action.

When I work with a team, I ask this question upfront - before a crisis occurs: “when things go bad, how will we know?” We set up bell systems – a series of warnings where, if a certain event happens, it’s an indication that we should pause and evaluate what’s going on. I also do this on a personal level: when I see a team member who is a runner suddenly not running for two weeks, I ask about it to determine how well that person is coping. I use the surface problem of poor coping as a trigger to dig for the deeper problem.

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