Collaborating in a field in Dorset

Collaboration is a key behaviour to get right if an organisation is really going to transform and deliver sustainable change. Without collaboration you work in silos, you keep learning to yourself, you focus solely on your own ideas and you reinforce the behaviour that slows change and drives mistrust.

But get it right and collaboration brings people together to do brilliant things. I’ve seen some great examples of effective collaboration in and across teams and beyond organisational boundaries. What I didn’t expect was to see collaboration shine through on a campsite in Dorset.

Last week was the first ever CommsUnplugged. A unique event for comms people, away from technology in a field in Dorset. It was a punt on an idea that came to life and excelled and without collaboration it would have been nothing. So here’s my take on collaboration unplugged style:

The idea – was a spark from two Dorset superstars who had the idea of a real CommsCamp. Throw in some ideas from a few more likeminded comms people and CommsUnplugged was a thing. I was lucky to be involved in the initial thinking and seeing ideas bounce back and fore and the event take shape was inspirational. Each input helped shape the event that little bit more. It was all the better for the sharing.

Putting up a tent – now I’ve never professed to be much of a camper and was very grateful for the support of my colleagues to get my tent up and functional. As I looked around the site I saw others come together to help each other pitch tents and make their homes for the next two nights. A small thing but seeing people help each other always makes me smile. It brought people together and conversations began.

Campfires – light a fire and people will come together. As the first evening drew on, our small camp circle became bigger as fellow campers joined the glow. Each person added conversation, laughter (and a little bit of alcohol).  We learnt about each other (and about llamas) and shared experiences.

Sharing stories – from campfire stories to our keynote speaker, CommsUnplugged was filled with sharing and storytelling.  I heard about bouncing back from rejection, resilience, inspiration, challenge and success. I heard individual stories of challenging roles, personal goals, friendship and families. I walked through the woods in the rain sharing my love of the sea with a fellow ‘unplugger’, mulling over how we ‘fill ourselves up’ to be more resilient and content. For me, listening and sharing was the underlying foundation of the whole event.

Learning – more than anything else I learnt that collaborating on a personal, professional, individual and group level brings knowledge, experience and, most of all, fun. I learnt about ways of working, how to approach new challenges and how to bring out the best in people. I also learnt that, even though I’ll never be a fan of camping, getting unplugged in Dorset allowed me to step back, reassess and be ready to step forward again. 

So here’s to collaboration. The dictionary definition is ‘the action of working with someone to produce something’ – whether that’s ideas, products or a campfire in the wilderness, bringing people together to get results will almost inevitably lead to getting more than you had initially imagined possible.

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