Collaboration Tip #2: Fall in love with problems

Adaptive problems are complex, multilayered challenges that call for true collaboration (see Collaboration Tip #1 for an overview of adaptive problems). One common pitfall of collaboration occurs when people come to the table with their solution already designed and ready to go. This might work for some problems—when stakeholders don’t have much skin in the game, they’re often willing to provide resources for a pre-designed solution or to select one from a list of a few options. Sometimes partners are satisfied with giving input to a mostly finished design that only needs a couple of final tweaks.

"Too often we become advocates for our own solutions instead of problem solvers."

However, partners increasingly want to be involved in shaping solutions if they are committing resources. Furthermore, adaptive problems—which have multiple causes, multiple possible solutions, and multiple owners for both the causes and the solutions—require the intimate involvement of stakeholders from the very beginning. In other words, they call for true co-creation. At this level of collaboration, we want all stakeholders to fall in love with the problem before we fall in love with our solutions. If we “over bake” an idea before involving our partners, we can miss the opportunity to achieve transformation.

Too often we become advocates instead of problem solvers. We can create a space for true co-creation by stepping back, really understanding the problem, and investing our egos in solving it – and not in pushing for our pre-conceived solution.

Spotlight On: Honey Bee Health

American honey bees are in trouble, and their predicament threatens our food supply. Modern American agriculture relies on many highly specialized and interdependent roles, including farmers, researchers, beekeepers, agrochemical manufacturers, and government agencies. Each of these actors owns a part of the problem, and all are necessary to execute a meaningful solution. In order to tackle the complex problem of honey bee health, the Honey Bee Health Coalition brings all of these stakeholders to the table to agree on the problems first – and then co-create solutions together.

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