Collaborative Advantage

Earlier this year I felt very pleased with myself for having come up with the phrase’ Collaborative Advantage’.  The phrase came to me in the context of conversations about competitive advantage, which I argued was only part of the story, and the weaker part at that.  My theme was (and is) that the most successfully competitive people are not the egoists, but the magnanimous.

I mentioned the idea to several people over the course of about 10 days, developing the idea as I warmed to my theme, thinking myself really rather clever.

Deciding I should write something about Collaborative Advantage, I sat at this machine and googled the phrase, just in case somebody had thought of it before.

Of course they had!  Twelve years ago, Elizabeth Lank wrote ‘Collaborative Advantage – how organisations win together by working together‘ which is pretty good but doesn’t acknowledge Jeffrey Dyer’s ‘Collaborative Advantage – winning through extended supplier networks‘ published in 2000.  But he was a laggard, compared to Siv Vangen and Chris Huxham whose research partnership stems from Chris’ book ‘Creating Collaborative Advantage‘ published in 1996.

All of them were beaten to publication by the rather brilliant Rosabeth Moss Kanter, who placed an article on ‘Collaborative Advantage – the art of alliances’ in the Harvard Business Review back in 1994.

I was thoroughly, comprehensively, utterly, beaten to it.   Worse yet, – Paul Skinner released ‘Collaborative Advantage – how collaboration beats competition as a strategy for successin June this year.

…only of course, it wasn’t worse at all – it was a real joy.

Thinking based in ideas of Collaborative Advantage is an antidote to the polarising effects of ego-centered competitiveness currently tearing politics, businesses and societies apart.   I for one, will do all I can to promote it, because I believe ‘winner takes all’ is a mindset with a built in self-defeating mechanism.

Let me know if you too are warming to the Collaborative Advantage theme – let’s take on The Competition!!


Report from ASP’s Great Wisdom Gathering

Here’s what happened at ASP’s Great Wisdom Gathering in Henley-on-Thames, facilitated by Mike Zeidler.

The gathering was attended by people from Sussex to Dorset. The rules of Open Space state very clearly that ‘whoever comes are the right people’, and so it was. Of the 17 due to attend, 12 made it, so there was more great wisdom than great numbers. Certainly the quality of the conversations was very good, and the topics covered wide-ranging.  There was a theme around joining things up, system models and collaboration, another about personal support, and a third about our relationships with nature.

The AGM turned out to be a great demonstration about the way ASP works as a learning organisation modelled as far as possible on ‘the way nature works‘. The form is self-evidently an association of people concerned about practical and applied sustainability. The clearly stated activities are all about supporting, challenging and connecting people on that journey in learning.  The directors went on to explain how they seek to keep everything ASP does as simple, as low cost, and as high impact as possible, and that as in nature, they remain constantly open, adaptive and emergent.

Someone proposed imposing a conceptual model on ASP as a way of showing it’s great power as a ‘the solution’ for change. What happened next was a joy to be part of.  There was a swiftly held, but deeply reflective debate in which everybody took part, surprising those who expected the directors to simply make a ruling. The group noted the shortfalls of a ‘yes/no’ voting system, explored more appropriate options, and ultimately rejected the proposal with supportive advice about other ways to achieve similar ends. As a test of ASP’s modus operandi, it was highly effective.   The proposer felt heard, valued, supported and understood – the organisation maintained its integrity in the face of a challenge to its principle of continuing openness.

​We reminded everyone there’s an open invitation from ASP for associates to become Directors. Two people expressed an interest which the current Directors will explore with them in the coming months.

All in, it was a good day with about 1/3 of those present experiencing an Open Space meeting for the first time.  If you were considering coming, but couldn’t make it, here’s what they had to say about it:  “I loved the discussions with interesting people going any direction”, and “It was a very easy flowing day with no agenda or objective – very refreshing for a lawyer!”;  “I loved the increasing openness, awareness, connection and change/options of the event”; “The human discursiveness and feeling [was good]”, and “I loved the openness and Oneness”
We hope to see you next time!

Art of Cosmic Thinking In Action

Spotlight spectrum smlrOn July 22nd 2016, we put on the UK’s second ‘Art of Cosmic Thinking’ event, building on feedback from the debut in Manchester back in May.   The word cosmic comes from the word cosmos, meaning ‘the universe as a complex and orderly system’ and the talk explored how to hold the tension between keeping things simple and keeping things real.

Having stimulated minds with this introduction, we created an Open Space for everyone there to explore their own ideas. Click here to see what went on.

Wanted: New Leadership – apply within

Burned Forest header







When things go wrong and people are angry, the natural tendency is to look for someone or something to blame.  We hold a public inquiry to make sure we know who’s fault it was, why it went wrong, and to make sure it never happens again.

The anger is stoked into a blaze of blame which gets so hot we step back from our own responsibilities.  Instead of looking at ourselves, we glare at the unfortunates tied to the stake while opportunities for useful learning get incinerated.

Right now, there’s a scorched clearing where political leadership used to be. We’re all desperately keen to see hope rise from the ashes and need to see something new. Our own public inquiry distilled into two questions – who now? and what could be different?  To see what we found, read the full article here.

In or Out – it’s a question of courage

In or out jar

The EU Referendum COULD have been a fascinating, engaging, participative and educational debate about the relationships of people across Europe. So far, the political debate has been a two dimensional, shallow and emotive competition between two different kinds of fear.

So how can we choose if we’re feeling under informed, overwhelmed by complexity or simply angry at the poverty of leadership? I think it’s a question of personal and collective courage.  Read the full account here.

The art of Cosmic Thinking

coloured smokeInspired by a great TED talk called ‘Inside the mind of a  master procrastinator‘ by Tim Urban, I’ve drafted a TED talk of my own.  With the working title ‘The Art of Cosmic Thinking’, my talk uses sort-of-art to explore super-connective networking and order in chaos.

The first dress rehearsal will be at Revolution in Fallowfield, Manchester on Sunday 15th May.  Please arrive at 5.45pm for a 6pm start.