Included as this is one of the best descriptions of what I would like to be. I enjoy being a maker but, to be honest, I’m not particularly good at it. I think my real skills are around connecting people together. The question is how I can put myself in circumstances that best let me do that.

From Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal.

Quote – starting at page 277:

What do I mean by collaboration superpowers?

A superpower is not just a new skill. It’s a skill that so far surpasses any previously demonstrated skill and it effectively changes our notion of what is humanly possible.

The term “superpower” suggest that something is happening outside the traditional model of learning and skill acquisition. Typically, we think of practice as moving us from a zero-skill level to basic competency and then, if we keep practising, to proficiency and ultimately to mastery, But mastery presumes that there is some finite end to the skill level is is possible to achieve. So why stop as mastery? The term “superpower” reminds us that we are on the threshold of a new kind of capability, one that has not yet been mastered by anyone, anywhere,. There’s no telling yet how far these new capabilities will develop.

What, exactly, do these new capabilities look like?

In my research at the Institute of the Future, I’ve developed a model of how someone with collaboration superpowers works. It involves three key new skills and abilities.

Extraordinary collaborators are extremely extroverted or outgoing in a network environment – even if they’re introverted or shy in face-to-face settings. They have what I call a high ping quotient, or high PQ. (In tech speak, a (sic) “ping” is a computer network tool that sends a message from one computer to another in order to check whether it is reachable and active. If it is, it will send back the message “pong”, thus establishing an active line of communication.) Extraordinary collaborators have no qualms about pinging – or reaching out via electronic means – to others to ask for their participation. They’re also highly likely to “pong” back when other people ping them. That’s what makes a high ping quotient a form of social capital.

Of course. it helps to have a good sensibility about who to ping when. (Otherwise you become a participation spammer.) That’s why extraordinary collaborators develop a kind of internal collaboration radar, or sixth sense, about who would make the best collaborators on a particular task or mission. The sixth sense comes from building up a very strong social network and maintaining a kind of peripheral awareness of what other people are doing, where they are, and what they’re good at. And it’s not just in internal system: collaboration radar is augmented with “ambient information systems” like Twitter lists, the Xbox 360 friends dashboard, or the Ground-crew volunteer availability system. The stronger your collaboration radar, the faster you can leverage individuals’ abilities towards the right effort.

Finally, the most extraordinary collaborators in the world exercise a superpower I call emergensight. It’s the ability to thrive in a chaotic collaborative environment. The bigger and more distributed a collaborative effort gets, the more likely it is to become both chaotic and hard to predict. We know this from physics and systems theory: bigger isn’t more, it’s different. That’s the principle of emergence. It’s impossible to predict what will happen at scale until you get there, and it’s likely to be vastly more complex than you expected. Of course, with increased complexity comes increased potential for chaos.

Extraordinary collaborators are adept and comfortable working with complex, chaotic systems. The don’t mind messiness or uncertainty. They immerse themselves in the flow of the work and keep a high-level perspective rather than getting lost in the weeds. The have the information stamina to filter large amounts of noise and remain focused on signals that are meaningful to their work. And they practice possibility scanning: always remaining open and alert to unplanned opportunities and surprising insights – especially at bigger scales. They are willing to bypass or throw out old goals if a more achievable or a more epic goal presents itself. And they are constantly zooming out to construct a much bigger picture: finding ways to extend collaboration to new communities, over longer time cycles and towards more epic goals.

These three ways of working make up what I consider to be the most important attributes of an extraordinary collaborator. Together, these traits enable us to discover and contribute our individual strengths and expertise to a large, open-ended effort.

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