Collaborating with the Enemy – Book Club Session #1

A local book club reading Collaborating with the Enemy, kicked off Monday, October 7 but the origins of this project organically bubbled up over the summer when two things happened in Delray Beach, FL.

First, two locals of diverse backgrounds (one African American, one Jewish) had an online disagreement. The second, as part of our Sustainability Summer Camp, Junior WiseTriber, Mitha Matilus proposed a project to bring people together to talk about “The Truth” and how people see things differently.

To encourage people to engage in dialogue, WiseTribe suggested a community book club for Collaborating with the Enemy: How to Work with People You Don’t Agree with or Like or Trust. The suggestion was welcomed and people in the community expressed an interest so WiseTribe decided to host a month-long book club on the topic of collaborating.

In our first meeting, there were 9 of us who attended… all white, all near-or-over 40. So, what happened? Why not more diversity? Was it the rain? Was it hard to find? Or did people opt out for another reason?

The goal for book club is to host a shared experience so we can listen and learn to enhance our collaborative efforts. In ways, it’s a group experiment. That’s it.

Collaborating in a Complex World

The premise of the book is that there are two types of collaboration. Conventional collaboration looks for agreement and consensus. It focuses on everyone agreeing what the problem and solution are and sets a plan in motion to change what ‘others’ are doing.

The author points out that in our increasingly complex world requires us to work with people different than ourselves, people who may never agree on the same problem and solution. He introduces us to stretch collaboration, which is about how to embrace conflict and connect diverse individuals. It allows us to move forward with multiple possibilities and sets us up for co-creation.

Having collaborated with highly diverse community groups in Thailand, Guatemala, and Colombia, throughout the book he provides examples of real-world collaboration experiences and lessons learned over his career.

Getting Started

Our book club discussion on night number one touched on a wide range of topics. Here are a few points that were made. If you have a point to make, show up and share it. We’d like to listen.

Human beings are interdependent. As individually focused as we are in the U.S. we still need to work together, at work, at home or in our community. A quote on page 5 points out,

“Collaboration is often imperative and usually challenging. And the more we need it, the more difficult we find it.” So, how do we do it better?

Diversity is really complexity. Some of the conversation included defining diversity to include diversity of thought, socio-economic status, race, religion and more. Recognizing that just because people might share certain categorizations doesn’t mean they share opinions or perspectives.

Today’s world is fast moving. We react quickly. We get interrupted by cellphones and alerts constantly. This is daily life today! What impact does this have on the human brain and limbic system as the emotional center? How does this lifestyle impact the way our children are raised? Is it about going along, getting along, winning or exiting?

A story of reversing hate. An interview was recalled about how while in college, Matthew Stevens (of Jewish faith) invited Derek Black (of white nationalist background) to Shabbat dinner for two years. The experience was life changing. The book we are reading gave a similar example of rivals becoming friends. So much so that once they really knew each other, and a hit was issued on one, the other protected his life!

What is the truth? Is there one truth or is it all perspective? My truth is likely not yours, and so on. The idea of “fake news” isn’t a new idea. Throughout history it’s always been the people in power who got to tell their version of the story.

Missing community partners. It didn’t go unnoticed that we didn’t have anyone from the African American community present. We also didn’t have anyone of college age or younger to offer variety of perspective. The group considered how we might welcome and engage more people of diverse backgrounds to attend future meetings.

Implement an agenda. Suggestions of including an agenda could help set expectations for those unsure of the group goals. Society is built on asking: what is the outcome, intent or purpose of this meeting? We are experimenting. We as WiseTribers don’t necessarily want to form a “plan” before we have the experience. This is parallel to what is discussed in the book. The author talks about not planning, in order to allow for multiple paths forward.

The racial divide. We recognize that there are people in our community of Delray who have had horrible things happen to them with racial inequality… and for generations. It saddens us that there are members of our community who have, and do, experience the racial divide. Trust takes time to build. How do we build it within our own group?

So what brings people together?

People from various communities come together organically in a crisis, like in the days to Miami when the community was at each other’s throats until a hurricane hit. After that we all pitch in and helped each other. Do we need to reach a crisis before people decide to come together? Sports also bring people together; football and tennis offer examples.

What do you think brings people together? Tell us in this short survey.

Get Involved, Join us for the 2nd Session

It’s a fact that diversity on teams in the workplace add value and increase success. We need a variety of perspectives from every angle to make projects work, and our communities are no different. We welcome varying views, so we welcome you to join us in this book club.

So, what do you hope to create in your community? We’d like to know. You’re invited to the next meeting! Let us know your point of view.

Monday Oct 14th from 6:30-8pm at the Caspian building 190 S.E. 5th Ave. Delray Beach, FL 33483. Click here to RSVP.

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