Like relationships, collaboration is hard work. If it wasn’t, it would happen more often. One of the push backs I sometimes receive when I say we need more collaboration is why should we when the other side does not do it? There is a short-sighted belief that one has to collaborate with only their best friends. The short answer is very little gets done when you do not involve all needed parties in the discussion.
Let me mention just three examples, two from America and one from Denmark.
After World War II, President Harry Truman appointed former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt to lead a team to help establish the United Nations. She was joined by some Republican elected officials, who were not huge fans of Ms. Roosevelt. After seeing her in action insisting that human rights had to be a key part of the mission of the new global group swaying opinion to her point of view, these Republicans said something interesting. They said we take back every bad thing we ever said about Eleanor Roosevelt.
After the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Franklin wanted to return home from Paris where he was quite successful in raising funding for the war effort from France. Instead, he was asked to lead a delegation of three to forge a peace agreement with England along with John Jay and John Adams. Per the Ken Burns documentary on Franklin, Adams did not care for Franklin especially his extracurricular activities, yet the men put their feelings aside and worked on what turned out to be the most one-sided peace agreement achieved to-date in favor of the former British colonies.
With Denmark largely below sea level, climate change has been considered with serious intent. Rising sea levels have always been a concern to this small country, but now the prognosis was alarming. The elected leaders knew they needed a long-term plan that would survive no matter which party was in power. They could ill-afford the flip-flopping of strategy every election cycle. So, collaboration across party lines was critical. And, they forged such a plan.
The Denmark example is illuminating. They responded to a “burning platform” issue. Yet, elected officials should not wait for the platform to burn. They should care less about binary win/ lose issues and work on solving problems. We need them to work together to get something done. And, we need to focus on issues of import not contrived ones that make the other side look bad. To be frank, I am extremely tired of this we/ they tribalism.