I thought, Wow, that’s a big word for a high school junior!Â And then I thought, Too bad she’s not willing to work with her mom anymore.
I laughed long and hard when I later found out that “Collaboration” was an after-school study hall program that the girls participated in once each week. It had ended about ten minutes before the phone conversation I’d overheard.
The story sticks with me years later not only because of the humorous twist it took in my mind, but also because it reminds me of how much I enjoy collaboration with others. I enjoy the subtle ways we collaborate — with other drivers as we navigate the highways, with friends and colleagues on new ideas and projects and with neighbors to maintain a safe community.
Collaboration occurs all around us. We find collaboration in nature between members of a species, like dolphins, and collaboration between different species, like bees and flowers or herons and hippos. The human body is another great example of collaboration. The glands and organs within the body respond to each other and take necessary action to keep everything working smoothly.
Many businesses also collaborate with each other. Airlines are a perfect example of this. They work together to get passengers to their next destination efficiently. If they didn’t, there would be a lot of unhappy people at airports when flights are delayed or canceled. Two gas stations on a corner typically generate more business than one does when it monopolizes the corner.
But despite so many great examples of collaboration in our world, many people still believe that there is a great need for competition. Indeed, competition is a very necessary component in nature, which insures that species populations stay in check and the strongest genes reproduce. It is seen in many mammals, such as in wolves and in humans, that when an organism is stressed or resources are scarce, the reproductive system is typically the first system to shut down as the body’s systems compete for energy. Competition can be valuable in business to offer the best quality in products and services at the most reasonable cost.
But regardless of the role competition plays in nature and economics, we can almost always achieve greater results when we choose collaboration over competition. I fully became aware of the substantial effect of this in college as an NCAA Division I athlete. In cross country running, my coach taught us to run past our teammates in a vastly different way than our opponents. In passing a teammate, we were taught to run alongside them and encourage them to come with us. In passing an opponent, we were taught to zoom past them as fast as possible and to “steal” whatever energy we could from them while passing so that they wouldn’t entertain the idea of joining us. I felt the effects of this maneuver from all vantage points to know that collaboration multiplied our energy and competition depleted it.
I remember this example today when I organize workshops and classes in Minneapolis. Many other public speakers, authors and holistic healers come together to help market, teach and promote the events. The more people that get involved, the more the energy multiplies. Collaborating works well, because everyone has special talents and strengths and a unique viewpoint on executing tasks.
One of the best outcomes of collaboration is the community that forms and the multitude of positive effects that ripple outward.
- Provides a support system
- Provides a common ground to share information, opportunities and services
- Builds relationships and partnerships within and beyond the group
- Develops certainty in yourself for tasks completed successfully
- Develops respect in others for roles taken in the community
- Aligns common goals
- Strengthens existing abilities and awakens latent talents
- Is FUN!
Collaboration for the alternative and holistic medicine and healing community is vital now as we move toward gaining widespread acceptance in America. In the last decade, the therapeutic alternatives offered by the holistic community have gained more awareness in the media. In the Upper Midwest and beyond, it is up to us to find solidarity in our holistic community so that we can continue to be a voice and a presence to gain a stronger foothold in America.
It is time for us to set aside the idea of competition and to form an alliance to inspire a very long-awaited and necessary change in making preventative health care a viable alternative for everyone.
Collaboration is on!