Taking a collaborative fitness test

There are lots of measures for gauging your physical fitness such as muscular strength, flexibility, agility and speed and of course body composition measures like blood pressure, weight and body fat. I have vivid memories of calipers being used to squeeze my underarm at the gym and rebelling at not only the unpleasantness of the test but at the inference that this measure could indicate my fitness. Surely taking part in an event would best test my fitness?

In my pre-parenting days I used to participate in all sorts of events from mountain biking to swimming and kayaking. I would assess my fitness level based on how I handled the rigors of the event and most importantly how I recovered from an event and got inspired for another event. Over time and with practice my fitness levels increased so that I became more confident and could take on more events.

It is this kind of confidence and willingness to take on more complex challenges that I look for as my clients build their collaborative fitness. We humans need a high level of collaborative fitness so we can tackle the complexity that surrounds us from poverty to obesity to environmental degradation and more.

As a recap on a blog I wrote in May 2015, my definition of collaborative fitness is the combination of mindset and practice that best addresses complexity. Like physical fitness, there is no one ideal of collaborative fitness but there are commonly held features that characterize a collaboratively fit group of people. These include the quality of listening and generative dialogue and a willingness to co-define problems, co-design processes, co-create solutions and implement the solutions together.

I was part of an event the other day that proved to be a test of the collaborative fitness of a multi-stakeholder group with whom I have been working for over six months. The ‘event’ took place when two guests attended a group meeting in proxy for two regular group members. These guests operated in a way that wasn’t congruent with collaborative principles and the meeting became tense and difficult to navigate.

The real indicators of the group’s collaborative fitness were revealed in the aftermath of the meeting. The multi-stakeholder group has an online forum where conversations can continue between meetings. A rich conversation took place that revealed an awareness by the group of how far they had come with regards to trust and working relationships.

The group’s recovery from this uncomfortable event was swift and healthy. The group demonstrated self-awareness of their collaborative fitness that will really assist them as they take on the next phase of their collaborative process.
One test down, bring on some more!


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