CREATIVITY and COLLABORATION are inseparable. Using them together they produce INNOVATIVE IDEAS and the PROCESSES to implement them.
Thinking partnerships are one of the most powerful ways to GENERATE NEW IDEAS in LIFE and BUSINESS. They can either formal or informal relationships.
The purpose of this article is to bring awareness to the term “thinking partnerships” and to offer a variety of models that can be modified to fit your organization or your personal goals.
I offer a workshop, with creativity facilitator Amy Isaman, for businesses and organizations to develop these skills. It’s called Creating Brilliance Using Thinking Partnerships. However, anyone is welcome to take the concepts from this article and build a training for their team.
Reasons for Using Thinking Partnerships
Creative thinking is a learnable skill, so is collaboration. These skills, when used together, challenge stale thought. They coax out simmering new ideas and hold them protectively until they take form and grow strong enough to challenge the familiar.
Effective processing of ideas is necessary to generate EXCEPTIONAL and ORIGINAL results.
EVERY HUMAN BEING IS CREATIVE. Think of the people you know who are great problem solvers, entrepreneurial, or who have especially well designed and brilliant lives. Those inspirational people are exceptionally good at accessing their creativity.
However, most of our “ideas” are re-runs and repeats driven by habitual thinking. Consequently, they tend to be safe and boring. So how do we best tap into our creativity?
One rule of creativity is that WE NEVER CREATE ALONE. It’s impossible! Ideas are borrowed, rearranged and built upon. We are inspired by other people and by what they have already created.
When we bring fresh thinking to existing ideas we are creating something slightly different from anything the planet has seen before. This can be uncomfortable because THERE IS NO FAMILIAR PATH WHEN SOMETHING IS NEW, however, this is a great place to be.
If you start a project already seeing the path, then the concept probably isn’t energizing or innovative.
Thinking partnerships help you discover new paths and overcome the discomfort of moving forward.
Informal Thinking Partnerships
I recently sent up an appointment with a friend to discuss a problem I was having. We walked while I talked. She was a great soundboard for my thoughts. After a long walk, almost two hours, a few pieces fell into place. I took a week thinking through different solutions and then asked her to listen to me again. The second time I discovered that I had a foundation for a new and usable perspective. This is an example of using an informal thinking partnership.
Informal thinking partnerships DON’T USE A SCHEDULE OR STRUCTURE. They usually develop comfortably and casually. Most of us have people in our lives who we already collaborate with. There is tremendous value in recognizing who they are.
Informal thinking partners tend to be people who enjoy exploring and working through problems and solutions. The beauty of this system is that both partners have an opportunity to share and be listening to at different times.
Formal Thinking Partnerships
Formal thinking partnerships HAVE an AGREEMENT AND STRUCTURE. They can be ongoing with no end date, or last for a specified period. They can utilize communication technology or be face to face.
Short term partnerships can be used to start or expand a business, create a workshop, write a book, design a house, or work through a specific obstacle.
In contrast, ongoing thinking partnerships are used to consciously ELEVATE THINKING and SOFT SKILLS. Used consistently, they could continuously improve a business, master the art of writing, fine-tune relationships, excel in communication finesse, or steadily develop leadership skills.
I recently wrote an article describing two of my favorite formal thinking partnerships, Thinking Partners, a Valuable Tool to Create More.
ONE PERSON SUPPORTING ANOTHER PERSON
This formal thinking partnership model is most commonly used in professional coaching.
This arrangement can be used to achieve a particular goal or it can be ongoing. The direction of support is clear. One person is supporting another.
This is a powerful model for DEVELOPING THINKING and moving past obstacles because it is a confidential space where almost ANY IDEA OR STICKY POINT CAN BE DISCUSSED. It works best with a trained professional giving the support.
MULTIPLE PEOPLE, EACH PERSON HAS THEIR OWN PROJECT
This is the mastermind model. Ideally, there are three to eight people who meet regularly to support each other’s projects or goals.
A mastermind can be ongoing or last for a set period of time. Some groups chose a formal leader who presents content. Other groups chose to have no leader and no formal content.
The advantage of the mastermind is that each member helps the others CREATE CLARITY and EXPLORE IDEAS. Consequently, there is an equal exchange of energy and support.
The disadvantage of this structure is that the direction of support could get cloudy and agendas could conflict. Mastermind groups structured with an official leader can help avoid this.
ONE PROJECT WITH TWO OR MORE PEOPLE WORKING TOGETHER
This model is used in formal organizations, especially boards of directors, committees, think tanks, or one-time projects. I’ve seen it used effectively in communities to meet a specific need.
In this model, there is one primary objective with SEVERAL PEOPLE and doing the work to achieve ONE GOAL. This structure can create extraordinary results because there are many committed people working together.
This approach requires patience and tolerance because people may disagree and personalities may conflict.
Collaboration is powerful and energizing. It opens new realms that you may never have imagined for yourself or your organization.