Learning and Adapting

Learning and Adapting

Creating a complex collaboration is, by its very nature, a learning process. As such, processes to help a collaborative group learn and make decisions about how best to adapt the approach is an important part of navigating the ambiguity and complex terrain of a complex collaboration.

This is not the formal learning of an educational context, but the dynamic learning from experience that is critical to an adult’s, and a collaboration’s ongoing development.

Collaborative learning involves trust and open information sharing. Early stages of the collaboration require more assurance of safety, since the working trust and group cohesion are building along the way. Safely navigating this process in a group setting is a powerful way to build trust and cohesion since the reality of the experience demonstrates how safe it will be to share uncertainty and disappointment.

A group may initially resist or put priority to operational tasks and decisions, so establishing the pattern of regular reflections for learning in the early days of a project become important. These sessions need not be lengthy, but regularity is important. Making sure the learnings are seen to be relevant, such as continuously updating systems maps and program dimensions using shared visuals may help to satisfy participants that the process brings value in both the short and long term.  

Such a learning and adapting process enables collaborating organizations and their representatives to develop more sophisticated capabilities for levels of collaboration with higher degrees of challenge. This includes the belief that Both/And, mutual gain solutions can be found.

As noted in the previous section, pre-established Go/NoGo decision points at each stage provides the means for organizations to re-assess the likelihood of achieving desired value with the benefit of more information than was available at the beginning of the project.  A scheduled participative learning and adapting process at the end of each stage does two things – it marks the end of a stage and so provides a way for participants to recognize where they are in a long and sometimes confusing process, and most importantly provides  a way to provide a collective view of what’s been achieved and learned during that stage. This is invaluable information for those not at the table (larger organizations and the wider communities of each representative).