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Collaboration, fast and slow

Jun 28, 2023

Inspired by Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, and the feeling of being swept up in some sort of whirlwind . . . Do you ever wonder whether your instincts will tell you to speed up or slow down at the right moment, in time to make the best decisions? 

There are two distinct kinds of people - those who believe in collaboration and those that don’t. 

Where do you sit?

I definitely sit in the first camp.

I’ve had the immense pleasure of collaborating with some of the very best talent in the industry as well as the struggles of working with those that sit very firmly in the second.

I can see both points of view. 

I make no judgement apart from acknowledging that it’s hard to convince someone otherwise! It seems to be a deeply held belief.  

If you collaborate on everything, it’s easy to lose who you are, and the unique qualities you bring to the table and to truly own the outcome - good or bad. But equally, if you don’t collaborate you miss huge opportunities to grow, expand your reach and argue your unique standpoint.

Taken in the built environment context, it’s crucial to allow time for collaboration with clients and stakeholders in order to build trust and a deep understanding of what the project needs to facilitate and deliver. If you fast-track this process, you’ll pay the price at some point down the track. Usually when it’s more expensive to make changes and mend disputes.  

Slow-cooking the design concept and room for innovation may be the right approach too. Depending on the scale and complexity of the brief and the expectations of the wider team. A slow and steady concept and design development phase can lead to a more secure delivery phase.

But, a fast pace has its place too.

Being able to make fast decisions because you have put the work into establishing a vision and relentlessly advocating for it. Making informed, well-paced decisions because you have systems in place to communicate effectively across the wider team, and the roles and accountabilities of individuals are clearly understood by everyone who interacts with your team.  

Fast feedback loops have the inherent advantage of getting you to the problems sooner, which in turn, with the right leadership, will get you to the solutions faster.

Not a bad trade-off.

Taken in a business context, collaborating at different paces makes sense too.

Entering into a business collaborative can be fraught with misaligned expectations and misunderstood assumptions. 

You know I have a beef with unacknowledged assumptions whether it’s inside or outside of projects.

Not to mention value and cultural differences within businesses that seem to emerge from the woodwork in the strangest moments. 

Like when deciding how to deal with problems before you get to them.

So, if the collaboration is fast, yes you can see progress and you can gain incredible momentum as a team.

Who doesn’t love momentum when it’s pushing you in the right direction?

But coming back full circle. I’ve begun to realise that the right direction is not always immediately obvious. Even if you are someone who trusts your instincts like I do. Even when you are collaborating with an equally ambitious and compassionate person or group of people. And, even when your values and ethics appear 100% aligned.

There is a place for slow contemplation and discovery of the right direction. 

Without standing still.

Without going it alone. But by acknowledging that collaboration happens best when parts are done fast and others, slow.




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