Imagine if we could bring together the best ideas and experience on collaboration to create a tool that could teach a baseline of collaboration capability.
So we could start straight away on the real work – creating together (as opposed to learning how to create together).
What would you really like to be creating?
People don’t generally understand or even have a shared language for collaboration.
We still see problems that require many people to work together continue to be "solved" by small groups. This approach can get results. But it doesn’t allow for diversity, and is risky because it isn't as capable of predicting downstream effects.
We believe the old (standard) non-collaborative modes of working only contribute to making the epic problems of our world seem impossible and unsolvable, when in reality, they are anything but.
So what is needed to generate this capability?
We need a communicable approach to designing collaboration, but there is no single approach that will resonate for everyone.
Epic Collaboration is designed to be a rich ecosystem of tools for collaboration capability building and design to ensure those with complex problems to solve can find a best-fit approach. Even better the creator of the approach and the community are ready and willing to help answer questions and establish partnerships around projects.
In a nutshell...
Epic Collaboration will be a system for those with complex challenges who are dissatisfied with traditional top-down methods.
It is an open knowledge system that connects inspiration with actionable approaches for collaboration, by identifying patterns across user contributed stories. Epic Collaboration is different from story collections like Good.is or instructional libraries like WikiHow. Instead, Epic Collaboration provides a complete system for building collaboration capability and connection to real people when you need help.
We imagine it like a cross between a library and a conference for collaboration designers and project owners with complex challenges.
Based on our experience working with a range of governments and organisations on complex collaboration challenges, we have established three principles as a foundation for epic collaboration.
1. Genuine collaboration
We believe the task of building understanding and capability for collaboration, can only be achieved through collaboration. It will require creative production involving diverse thinking, language and perspectives. It will also need a growing base of problems and opportunities coming from different contexts, in order to ensure the collaborative approaches created are widely applicable.
In order to maintain credibility, we believe Epic Collaboration must serve as an example of great collaboration in its own right.
2. Radical openness
We believe radical openness is necessary because it provides maximum opportunity to build shared understanding, vision and learning. It puts more power in your hands by providing you with the information and evidence you need to make informed decisions. You can take what you want, and leave what you don’t.
And to protect and support this level of openness, there must be mechanisms to ensure the value and IP contributed supports both the contributors, as well as the community - for example, Creative Commons and GPL licensing. This openness helps make sure those contributing are not only designers, but co-owners.
3. Learning together
For any collaboration to scale to epic impact, it must first start with the humble beginnings of a smaller group. Therefore, we’re looking for approaches that help us forge the bonds of understanding, trust and fellowship, in order to support social learning.
This is why we’re also committed to ensuring a face-to-face and one-on-one orientation in addition to online and group activities.
We are also using lean start-up thinking to iteratively build, measure and learn, to help ensure we make our best moves together, at the right time. When innovation is well thought through and informed by data generated as a result of iterative experimentation, it creates a platform for common understanding and decision making. This helps groups learn better and faster together, and we believe learning is key to success in our rapidly changing world.
So for example, the current state of the site is a structured experiment, designed to test assumptions and validate learnings that we can take forward.
How does the library work?
It's easy to gather lots of information and knowledge, but it's hard to make it simple for someone to get their head around this knowledge quickly. That's why we've organised our library around four big concepts:
Stories are the most simple and accessible entry point to the system - both for those interested in building it, and those who will ultimately use it. They document an experience of collaboration, the challenges that were experienced and how these were (or were not) addressed. Each story contains nuggets which represent the lessons learnt that were carried forward into future work. We are currently calling these lessons “Patterns”.
Patterns may be discovered in particular stories, but they can be expressed in and linked to any number of stories. While a story may be ‘owned’ or published by an individual, patterns are independent and exist to provide a vital tie between stories. They are repeated concepts that provided a solution, or enabled progress regarding a particular challenge. While stories provide evidence for a pattern, patterns validate the importance of a story.
Frameworks are similar to patterns, in that they play a role in many stories. However, frameworks are more consciously designed and applied, as opposed to patterns which emerge organically. Frameworks are the existing known methods utilised by various organisations in undertaking a collaborative process. Like Patterns, Frameworks are also independent of stories, although appropriate attribution is given.
Approaches, the last element, bundle up frameworks, providing a holistic combination of frameworks and patterns, supported by stories. Approaches differ from frameworks in that they represent the unique process of an organisation designing and supporting collaboration. An Approach will typically include and have links to a number of frameworks, some customised for its purpose. The Approach is where an organisation has an opportunity to define what they mean by and how they do collaboration. Users of the system can find an Approach that makes the most sense to them and use it or engage in a conversation with its creator as they see fit.So an Approach essentially amounts to a manual for designing collaboration in a particular way.
Resources amount for everything else that might be related to collaboration. This could be a report or research paper, or another site that gathers knowledge about collaboration.
We believe that naming and separating Stories, Patterns, Frameworks and Approaches provides an evidence-based relatability. This is important because it provides a means to uncover the connections between them. For a deeper introduction, watch Collabforge's Mark Elliott explain it all here.