Score 95+/100 (9.5+ out of 10)
It would be easy to try to sum this book up as something like“working together is better than working alone.” However, that wouldn't be doing justice to this fascinating book that has so much more to say than just that.
Yes, collaboration is a lot about working with others, cooperating with others, and accomplishing greater things as a team rather than as individuals. We've heard these things since preschool; however, how much successful collaboration do we see relative to the sheer number of people and businesses in our world? How much discord and cutthroat competitiveness do we see in business, education, athletics, and even politics? It seems that people are always at each other's throats. It seems as though people are always trying to succeed at the expense of others. Now, a certain amount of competitiveness is good. It's one of the hallmarks of American capitalism. At the same time, there are numerous examples (as provided by the author) of people who were able to substantially increase their success, longevity, and overall well-being by working with other people.
The example that stuck out in our minds from the book was Blockbuster and Netflix. There is an entire generation (perhaps even two) growing up right now who don't even know what Blockbuster is. However, there was a time it dominated video entertainment. What happened? Well, not only did it fail to adapt to an ever-changing streaming and video-sharing market, but it failed to collaborate when given the chance including with a fledgling Netflix. Perhaps there is some alternate reality in which Blockbuster agreed to buy out Netflix and gain a monopoly on the video-sharing market before HBO Max, Hulu, and Disney+ could come about. However, this isn't that reality. Blockbuster crumbled, largely at the feet of a competitor who had once offered to work with them or even for them.
This might seem like a super niche example, but think about what WWE (then WWF) accomplished in the early 2000s by buying out its chief competitors, WCW and ECW. Now, here's the thing: WWE subsidized ECW to a certain extent. Yes, they actually invested in their competitor. That might sound strange to some people, but there was a reason for it. ECW served as a sort of feeder or developmental league in which great talents who hadn't yet hit their stride could be cultured and break into the business. ECW also served as a testing ground for new ideas that the WWE later cannibalized for its own benefit, making itself a lot of money in the process and surviving (and thriving) to this day.
Collaboration doesn't only apply to business, it applies to almost every area of human existence. The book provides good and bad examples of disaster relief efforts in the context of collaboration. Collaboration between different local, state, and federal organizations is showcased in the wake of a Minnesota Bridge Collapse. Due to a coordinated Emergency Operations Plan (EOP), damage and death were minimized. This is compared to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans, Louisiana in which different government agencies did not adequately cooperate or inform each other of the severity of what was going on, thus leading to a stunted evacuation and very slow response to the crisis that left over a thousand dead and thousands more homeless.
The author uses bands and music as a great example of collaboration. Heck, we know people personally who regularly collaborate with other musicians to diversify their skills, network (yes, we know the author makes the point that networking isn't full-on collaboration), to grow and their audience. Going back to the point, the author uses The Beatles as an example of a band that actually struggled with collaboration in their earlier days because Paul McCartney, the story goes, played most of the instruments and made most of the noise. This led to a lot of frustration and loss of enthusiasm among the band members which hindered and later crushed their creativity and productivity. Well, when the band came back together, they were better able to diversify the skills sets, show off their various talents, and become far more creative and productive than they ever were before. It's true, variety really makes the music. No one wants to hear the same sound over and over again, no matter how beautiful it is. A lot of beautiful sounds played in synchrony make a prettier song. That's the power of collaboration.
There are some great passages in this book, but our favorite was that “Fish lose the benefit of being in a school if one fish eats all the food.” It tells you that humans as social animals work better together than apart, and that—as the adage goes—a high tide lifts all ships. Imagine a football team with one great player and a bunch of one-star and two-star supporting talent. We've seen it before. It's a recipe for mediocrity. Football is a sport that requires 11 players on a team to work together at one time. More often than not, you'll find that the best teams aren't the ones with the best individual stats (for things like running or passing), but ones that are more balanced and work together—with a good offense, defense, and special teams. It's the lesson we all learned when the one-man aerial circus of Dan Marino's Miami Dolphins faced a very well-balanced 49ers team in the Super Bowl.
Speaking of dolphins, this book is full of other sea-life analogies. Fish feed, hunt, and swim together. They are also sometimes faced with big predators like sharks. Sharks are analogous to critics and negative people in our lives and who get between us and our goals. Working in a "Collaboration Ecosystem" (as the author puts it), like a school of fish, will help you to survive the slings, arrows, and gnashing teeth of sharks who want to divide and conquer.
One last thing we want to bring up is that this book is very well-structured and well-organized. We appreciated the bullet points and how things were formatted so that they stood out, making everything easier to read and digest altogether.
Check this out on Amazon!
Leave a Reply.