Four years ago, I started organizing a small end-of-year gathering with other Bay Area collaboration practitioners to celebrate and make meaning of the year together. We would spend the first few hours of our session mapping how our individual years went using an exercise called Journey Mapping, then we would share our respective stories with each other and toast the end of the year with libations and snacks. It was a lovely ritual, and it became an annual tradition.

This past year, we couldn’t do a face-to-face gathering due to the pandemic, so we decided to do it remotely instead…

It’s now been seven years since I first started exploring a simple hypothesis:

  • Collaboration is a muscle (or, rather, a set of muscles)
  • You strengthen these muscles by exercising them repeatedly (i.e. practice)

Our current orientation toward collaboration is knowledge-centric, not practice-centric. No one expects anyone to get good at playing the guitar by handing them a book or sending them to a week-long “training,” yet somehow, this is exactly how we try to help folks get better at communicating or navigating hairy group dynamics.

I’ve spent the past seven years trying to change this. I’m currently on the fifth…

Photo by Eun-Joung Lee

When I was in my early 20s, I used to play pickup basketball with a guy who was 20 years older than me, but didn’t look it. He was in superb shape, and he never seemed to get injured. At one of our games, I sprained my ankle, and when I was healthy enough to return, I asked him if he had any rehab tips. “Yoga,” he replied. He hadn’t sprained his ankle in over ten years, which he attributed to his yoga practice.

I was intrigued, but never seemed to get around to trying it. It took me another…

Illustration from Black Illustrations: The Movement Pack

It’s been one month since a white police officer in Minneapolis murdered George Floyd, a 46-year old Black father of five. I’ve found the subsequent response remarkable for its intensity, unprecedented diversity, and impact. While I’m moved by how many people and organizations seem genuinely compelled to act, I’m also vexed by some of the rhetoric around what “doing something” actually means.

Woke theatre aside, I get that it’s hard to know what to do or how. I can see how easy it is to be overwhelmed by the enormity of wanting to eradicate 400 years of structural and cultural…

Over the past two years, I helped designed and facilitate two annual board retreats for a small nonprofit with my colleague, Zoe Tamaki. I don’t typically do one-offs like this, but the executive director was a friend of mine, and I was looking for an excuse to work with and learn from Zoe. After last year’s retreat, Zoe and I sat down in front of a camera and discussed some things we learned from the experience and from each other, including:

  • The importance of designing with your stakeholders
  • When relationship-building trumps task work
  • How I handled a funky facilitation moment

Photo by Png Nexus, CC BY NC-ND 2.0.

A huge part of my job over the years has been helping groups recover from Process Trauma (and its ugly cousin Consultant Trauma). It’s caused when a group goes through some kind of process, such as strategic planning, and has a horrible experience. It almost always results in the group deciding never to pursue that process again unless they’re forced to, which exacerbates the trauma.

As empathetic as I am to Process Trauma, I am troubled that groups tend to give up on process rather than making adjustments and trying again. If I have a bad experience with a personal…

COVID-19 has forced many of us to reckon with a working world where we can’t be face-to-face. I’ve been heartened to see how collaboration practitioners have been responding overall. I love seeing folks tapping the wisdom of their own groups before looking outward and sharing their knowledge freely and broadly.

I am especially happy to see people reminding others and themselves to pause and revisit their underlying goals rather than make hasty decisions. There is a lot of amazing digital technology out there, and it’s easy to dive head-first into these tools without considering other, technology-free interventions that might have…

We are in the midst of a global pandemic.

Re-reading those last two words still feels bonkers to me, even though it’s been almost three months since the first reported case of COVID-19 and almost two weeks since the World Health Organization (WHO) made its official declaration. I had been casually tracking Coronavirus from the start, and I started paying closer attention about four weeks ago. I’ve also been actively doing some thinking and scenario work around planetary crises with a few friends and colleagues for the past year and a half. …

I discovered weights freshman year in college, and as a weak and skinny kid, I found them to be a revelation. One of my friends had played football in high school, and he and I would work out together often. He worked out hard — at least five days a week — and I liked his routine, so I adopted something similar.

I rapidly gained strength, but I also peaked quickly. Naturally, I tried working out more, but it didn’t seem to help. I maintained more or less the same routine throughout my sophomore year without any significant gains, which…

For the past 18 years, I have begun almost every introductory conversation about my work with the following questions:

  • What was your best experience collaborating with others?
  • What would your life be like if all of your collaborative experiences were at least as good as your best?
  • What would the world be like if everyone’s collaborative experiences were at least as good as their best?

People’s reactions are fascinating. Some respond quickly with great stories. Most do not. Many seem to find it easier to think of stories from their personal rather than their professional lives. …

Eugene Eric Kim

Collaboration Coach, Trainer, and Designer. @fasterthan20

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