Collaborative Intelligence: A book review by Bob Morris

Collaborative IntelligenceCollaborative Intelligence: Thinking with People Who Think Differently
Dawna Markova and Angie McArthur
Spiegel & Grau (2015)

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

All organizations need effective leadership as well as effective communication, cooperation, and collaboration at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. These needs are even greater now than ever before, given the nature and extent of competition in what has become a global marketplace. More often than not, high-impact results are achieved by teams. The Mead quotation reaffirms the importance of that fact. Here’s another of her insights: “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” I agree with Dawna Markova and Angie McArthur that there are almost no limits on what they characterize as “the transformative power of collaborative thinking” can accomplish. This is what Tom Davenport and Brooke Manville have in mind in their book, Judgment Calls, when offering “an antidote for the Great Man theory of decision making and organizational performance”: organizational judgment. That is, “the collective capacity to make good calls and wise moves when the need for them exceeds the scope of any single leader’s direct control.”

This is precisely why collaborative intelligence, “thinking with people who think differently,” is so essential to making the right decisions. “Collaborative intelligence (CQ) is a critical component of mind share, because it allows you to recognize what expertise is present and what is missing.” Markova and McArthur then add, “Think of this book as an operating manual for one another’s minds…Think of this book as that operating manual which helps you understand the differences in how people around you think.” And do indeed remember meanwhile “that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.”

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Markova and McArthur’s coverage:

o Rate Your CQ (Pages 13-15)
o The Four Essential Strategies of CQ (18-19)
o Breakthrough Practices (19-20)
o How Do You Pay Attention to Attention? (31-34)
o The Three Languages of Thought: What Triggers Your Attention to Shift? (36-38)
o Mind Patterns: Four Steps (40-43)
o Chart of the Patterns Matter? (59-64)
o How Do You Create the Conditions for a Team to Open Its Thinking? (92-96)
o Growing the Thinking While Growing the Organization: Using CQ in a Whole Company (97-99)
What Are Your Unique Thinking Talents? (109-111)
o 35 “Thinking Talents” (112-120)
o Why Do Thinking Talents Matter? (128-139)
o Walk Curiously in Another Person’s Shoes (146-150)
o Engaging a Person Who Challenges You (150-155)
o The Three Kinds of Inquiry (177-184)
o Using the Inquiry Compass (185-193)
o How to Get Past Clashes in Styles of Inquiry and Move Toward Collaboration (200-203)
o Three-Step Inquiry: Success-Based, Intentional, and Influential (208-210)
o Aiming Your Attention, and, Aiming Your Intention (222-228)
o Using Attention, Intention, and Imagination to Create Forward Momentum (229-232)
o Aiming Collective Attention Questions for Leaders (245-248)
o Appendix: Utilizing Mind Patterns in Work Situations (Pages 261-337)

When concluding their book, Dawna Markova and Angie McArthur note that “the root of the word ‘respect’ means to look again, to see or consider oneself, other people, situations, and challenges as if for the first time.” Perhaps they are channeling T.S. Eliot’s insight in Four Quartets: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” Those who read this book will be required to complete a journey of self-discovery, to be sure, but they will realize — perhaps for the first time — that they have been seeing what they expect to see, hearing what they expect to hear, and doing what they expect to do. These are self-limiting habits. “They offer comfort without challenge, reassurance without insight, and certainty without imagination.”

For those who remain hostage to what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom,” the wealth of information, insights, and counsel provided in this volume can help them to make much better decisions, both alone and in collaboration with others.

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