What are you weaving? Collaborative problem-solving doesn’t move in straight lines

Richard Watkins
Apr 15, 2018 · 4 min read

The world is full of important, complex challenges that can only be addressed meaningfully by working together — and one of the joys of the work we do at Let’s Go is to have a view across a wide spectrum. For example, earlier in the year it was a joy to join the Global Change Leaders for a few days. This rather impressive global community of social entrepreneurs are working to make education better, gathered by our long term friends at Ashoka. They share a belief that we need new learning ecosystems that will ready young people for the future, and a big part of that means working in collaboration with different stakeholders and partner organisations.

As well as picking up lots of amazing stories from around the world, I also picked up on one of the metaphors they use for their work: weaving. They talk about their practice as weavers of education ecosystems, and their work is weaving people and ideas for the sake of their ambitious goals.

As a poet, I’m very tuned into metaphors (see previous interrogation of metaphors we use mindlessly: organisations as machines, careers as a path, and darkness as evil). When it comes to complex collaborative problem solving, I can see some real richness in the weaving metaphor:

  • Weaving creates new things by new connections and new combinations, not always with new materials. In the same way the most innovative system of education often uses proven and tested elements, but in new combinations — and new ideas don’t come from the sky but from the overlap of different perspectives (each grounded in experience/wisdom).
  • Weaving is practical and what you make can be seen/tested. In the same way, the GCL are doing real experiments in real places to test new approaches and initiatives that could scale. When it comes to facing complexity, too much deliberation without action gets us nowhere.
  • Weaving doesn’t flow in straight lines, but it’s an evolving process. In the same way when taking on really complex systems you must keep a clear purpose/vision/direction in mind but sometimes plans change as you go, adapting to context.
  • In weaving there are a lot of threads to keep hold of and sometimes it can get bit messy and knotted. In the same way this kind of work is often ugly — awash with different agendas/possibilities and some challenging decisions/emotions. At Let’s Go we say the way to navigate this is to increase the quality of the conversations you are having.
  • Weaving is a simple practice which you can understand. In the same way the dynamics of collaboration can be clearly understood (that’s why the Let’s Go model is useful). Getting good is a practice and you build muscles by doing, not with endless theory.

So, what are you weaving in your work? And can this metaphor help you think about how you face into complex challenges?

Sharing the Let’s Go Model with the GCL community

Weavers need tools, and our Collaboration Cards were well received in Lyon. Getting things done in collaborative groups is complex and the key to success is finding the right conversation. The cards highlight 30 powerful conversations that help you get things done in collaborative groups — and are based on our simple framework. Already in the hands of 1000s of leaders across sectors they have been translated into French, LatAm Spanish, German and Mandarin Chinese.

“The Let’s Go Collaboration Cards provoke exactly the sort of conversations we need to be having if we are to bring about the education systems that young people around the world so desperately need” — Ross Hall, Ashoka

The world is in desperate need for us to work together better and at Let’s Go we are committed to supporting education initiatives wherever we can. Whether that’s things like the Global Change Leaders or a new pilot to support young people with project based learning with a school in Liverpool.

More about our work with organisations in 60 seconds:

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Richard Watkins

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Lifelong collaborator — founder @letsgohq — creative stuff www.richwatkins.com — Camberwell

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