Inviting in Wisdom

cosmosIn her new book Thrive, Arianna Huffington challenges us to define success beyond wealth and power. Instead, she encourages us to cultivate what she calls the “third metric,” comprised of well-being, wisdom and wonder.

Early in the book, Huffington states, “I’m convinced of two fundamental truths about human beings. The first is that we have within us a centered place of wisdom, harmony and strength… The second truth is that we’re all going to veer away from that place again and again and again.” Our life’s work, she writes, is in part to get better at returning to that centered place, and to stay there for longer periods of time.


Her words remind me of the best of collaboration.  Effective collaborations create – through the work and the relationships that are built – mutual reinforcement of what is important, and what needs to be kept at the center of the work.  Effective collaborations are gatherings of people who invite in wisdom, and encourage it to stay for a while.

Throughout my work life I have been blessed to participate in and often to help create effective collaborations in the fields of health care, affordable housing, growth management, and now public education.  Each of these policy areas is complex, and requires multi-faceted strategies to comprehensively understand the challenges as well as opportunities for impact. Collaborations of diverse organizations with diverse viewpoints are needed to envision the work and to get it done.

Despite the evidence in favor of collaboration, too many of us have sat through collaborative efforts that result in endless meetings, little trust and modest impact:  the concept of collaboration falls short.  From my experience, these efforts lack three essential components of effective collaboration.


–       Allow vision to focus inquiry and the work.  As Huffington writes, we are all capable of being in a centered place where what really matters is crystal clear – and yet we are also challenged to sustain that clarity.  Effective collaborations develop a shared vision, and then regularly revisit the vision to ensure the work doesn’t get off track.

–       Spend time focusing on what matters. Too often meetings can be sidetracked by tangential issues, or can be dominated by a few strong personalities.  The essential questions – What matters; How can we, working together, increase our impact – are not front and center. Collaborations are expensive endeavors, if one adds up the salaries in the room. Every meeting should be spent discussing essentials in order to move the ball down the field.

–       Seek to build trusting relationships. This may be the most important aspect of effective collaborations. As I write in The Five Essential Lessons of Graduation Matters, in order to build trust, I believe you have to go slow to go fast. If trust is there, any obstacle becomes something we can all put our shoulder to. But if trust is not there, any multitude of excuses are easy to find as to why something isn’t possible.

Collaborations that build trusting relationships, focus on shared vision and the things that really matter, allow us to inhabit that sacred place where, as Huffington says, “Life is transformed from struggle to grace, and we are suddenly filled with trust, whatever our obstacles, challenges or disappointments.”

One Reply to “Inviting in Wisdom”

  1. Deb, these are all GREAT! I love your insight and how you express it through these posts. Keep up the good work, and thanks for your contributions!

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