Monthly Archives: January 2010

Collaboration as Performance Art

I’ve been studying Sacred Theater for years with a master teacher and actress, Peggy Rubin.  Sacred Theater is a workshop that Peggy offers to enable participants to look at their lives as performance art.  Sacred Theater players, as we participants are called, become playrights, directors, set designers, composers, choreographers and leading actors in our own productions.  There is creative challenge in many of the activities, a call for all to be daring and willing  to step out on the workshop space “stage” and always….always an abundance of fun.  I began this work as a way to spend time with close friends and to build my comfort being in my own skin.  What I  also discovered along the way was that having a shared, intimate, challenging experience with many of the same people year after year has taught me a lot about collaboration as an art form.   I’m recalling one workshop where we were asked to write a few lines of dialogue about a current life situation and take only 5 minutes to do so. We then were told to hand our writing to another player who then directed others to enact the dialogue in front of us.  In this scenario, I became the audience for my own writing.  I had chosen a difficult subject matter – the recent death of my adopted son’s birth mother. There was so much left unsaid between me and the woman who gave birth to my son  but I felt I only captured a taste of it in the lines I wrote.  What absolutely stunned me was  as my fellow workshop players enacted the conversation I would never be able to actually have, I experienced the comfort and closure I was strongly seeking.  The “stand-ins” for my story became my collaborators.  They took the words I wrote, riffed on them as actors do, and offered me the gift of finishing an unresolved  conversation.  If you would like to know more about Sacred Theater, collaboration through performance.  art as collaboration or performing art as collaborators, check out Peggy’s new book, To Be and How To Be:  Transforming Your Life Through The Nine Powers of Sacred Theater.



Notice That Thinking

Last week I became certified to deliver Mental Works: Thinking for Results, developed by John Stoker (

The course allows us to become aware of and observe our own and others’ automatic thinking patterns. We all have them. They come from hundreds of factors such as how we were raised, the geographic region we’re from, what we’ve read or watched, our physical size, the things  we’ve studied and learned, our work experiences, the traumas in our lives as well as the jubilations!

I could go on and on but I’m sure you get the idea. [“Notice that thinking,” John would suggest, drawing my attention to my assumption. As the class continued we all got in the game of “Notice that!” chuckling over the obviousness of someone else’s assumptions and puzzling over our own.]

Truly, much of the impact of our mental models lies in our assumptions – especially the ones we don’t even realize we’re making.

I saw this principle at play in several of the exercises we did throughout the two days. Our little group would be working under certain assumptions – and not making a lot of progress, I might add, when one of us would say “Hey the rules don’t say we have to…” or “Maybe it’s this…”

The details don’t matter and I don’t want to spoil the surprise in case you get a chance to take the class sometime. The point is that whatever the brilliant idea was, it hadn’t occurred to me! Imagine!

This is the underlying power of collaboration. If each person in a collaborative effort can open up our collective thinking once or twice, imagine the terrific ideas that can evolve.

Do your assumptions get in your way? What do you notice?


Rodin's The Thinker at the Musée Rodin; Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

A Collaborative Dance

This blogathon is providing all sorts of new learning. Check out The Top Dog’s (Eileen Proctor) Blog for details about freestyle — a sport requiring collaboration from your dog!

And take a look at this delightful video of Carolyn and Rookie.

15 things I love about collaboration

Here are 15 things I love about collaboration.

  1. I get to feel surprise when my collaborators offer new twists on a thought.  I feel so alive when I’m surprised!
  2. Collaboration is often lots of fun.
  3. It heightens my sense of belonging.  I get to matter to someone else.  Collaboration can be an antidote for loneliness!
  4. Collaborating increases my sense of accountability to get things done.  I am motivated to not let others down.
  5. Collaboration brings talents and skills my way that really help to offset where I’m not particulary motivated or strong.
  6. Things can be messy in a collaboration as ideas expand and build.  Messiness is a path to creativity for me. I enjoy the time of not knowing  -when the mix of ideas is swimming around – before a sure path emerges. Check out Keith Sawyer’s book called Group Genius to read more on what power there is in this mess!
  7. Collaboration reminds me that my way to do things isn’t the only one.  I get new lenses to look through by collaborating.
  8. It is a source of efficiency. I can get more done than when I’m on my own.  I think there is something about shared accountability for a success that increases my productivity.
  9. It increases the opportunity for acknowledgment.  There is never too much affirmation these days.  Being validated helps to build energy and creativity.
  10. When I collaborate the times of being stuck are few and far between.  Collaborators often say when something is uncertain or stalled, add another person in the mix.  That often re-engages momentum!
  11. It’s like a non-stop laboratory for cooking up new things.  The atmosphere of testing and trying out new perspectives is so rich!
  12. Work seems so much easier and less effortful in a collaboration that really works.
  13. When I’m in a successful collaboration,  my faith in the generosity of spirit of people gets renewed.
  14. Collaboration gives me an opportunity to offer my ideas and thoughts to someone else.  Giving things away is such a satisfying experience!
  15. And I’ve saved the best for last…Collaboration led me to Debbie Exner – I love this woman – an expert collaborator!


From Lone Ranger to Collaborating as a Way of Life

Some people assume that I must always have been big on collaboration. In fact, I used to be a shy lone ranger. I did things on my own. I almost never asked for help.

I had a small collection of friends that I’d picked up over the years, one from high school, one from my first job and one from an orchestra I played with. They were all wonderful outgoing people. I depended on people like that because I was very unlikely to make the first approach to anyone. Fortunately I was very good at keeping friends.

After my sixth move in my young adult life, newly divorced, in another new town, I realized that while my friends were important to me, they were geographically challenged. Keep in mind that this was back in the days before email and the Internet. Answering machines were the hot new technology! My friends were unable to give me the level of connection I was craving.

I decided something had to change. Me!

I remember the day. I was at a new employee orientation for New York University. My mind was wandering and out of the blue I came up with the idea “Today I’m going to make friends with someone.” I looked across the table and caught the eye of another new employee and smiled. She smiled back. It wasn’t so hard.

Ultimately, I got to the place of being a highly networked collaborative person who finds it easy to get to know people and make connections. I’ll share more about how this evolved in future blog posts.

How about you? Where are you on the Lone Ranger to Collaborator scale? Have you changed during your life?

Overwhelmed with information? Collaboration is a solution!

At a December ICF conference in Orlando,  I noticed a number of attendees wearing buttons that designated them as “Conference Twitterers”.   One woman who sat next to me in one  session typed fast enough to post most of the key messages the presenter offered during the 90 minute program.  I was incredulous.  Who was really going to be reading these tweets?  If there were tweets being written in each of the scores of sessions, who would really have the time to plug into their messages? I am trying to find a way to be stay current with all of this social media but I keep coming up against a sense of overwhelm when even thinking about it.  What do I take the time to read?  How do I know which entries will be of use?  How do I get myself organized so that I’m not getting lost in the volume of possibilities?

In his article,   Why Twitter Will Endure, New York Times writer David Carr suggests we consider Twitter as a river of data flowing past us and that we can dip a cup into it now and again for a drink.  Sampling the river can be enough.  The trick is to build a sample where you can start drinking.  I’m discovering that collaboration can be a way to create this sample.  The NSA blogathon which Jackie Dishner has initiated gives a place to start.  Sometimes having a clear idea of where to start and others as companions for the experience are all we need to jump into a new territory.  Already I’m feeling less overwhelmed.


Blogathon: Collaboration to Get It Done!

Another great benefit to collaboration is that it can be used to create accountability to others and actually get something done! I have done this numerous times, developing course materials on a topic of interest that I’d been thinking “Someday I’ll…” With others, suddenly someday comes.

I hope you’ll join us and our fellow Blogathoners — all from Arizona except for my co-collaborator Maddie in NJ. We are participating in a Blogathon assembled by my National Speakers Association buddy Jackie Dishner. She organized one of these in the past — when a blog was just a gleam in my eye — and now the time is right for us to participate.

The plan is that we commit to post often — possibly even every day — for the month of January. We’ve also agreed to visit and comment each other’s blogs and include the links on our own blogs (see the list below). We’re anxious to get started, and looking forward to developing our blogging habit as well as reading and learning from each other.

When have you used collaboration for accountability? Did it work?

We hope you’ll check back here often and take a look at these other blogs:


Jackie Dishner

Susan Ratliff, Exhibit Expert
Bling My Booth

Stephanie Angelo
Human Resource Essential Blog

Greg Peterson
Down On The Urban Farm

Bonnie Mattick
Your Business Detective

Andrea Beaulieu
True Potential
Conspiracy of Love

Beth Terry
Cactus Wrangler

Debra Exner and Maddie Hunter
Collaboration Pays Off
Debra Exner also participates in a collaborative blog
International Coach Federation Phoenix Chapter blog

Deborah M Dubree
Clear Edge Blog

Eileen Proctor
The Top Dog’s Blog

Mimi Meredith
Bloomin’ Blog

Suzanne Holman
Boomer Health…Wealth…family…adventure

Dr. Eileen R. Borris
Finding Forgiveness

We feel honored to be collaborating with such a varied and knowledgeable bunch of colleagues. We wish you a fun, successful and collaborative new year!