Garmston Wellman: Seven Norms of Collaboration


Seven Norms of Collaboration.
  These norms build group energy, commitment, and effectiveness.
  • Pausing.  Not all brains work at the same rate or use the same processes.  There are four types of pauses: 1) after a question, 2) after someone speaks, 3) personal reflection time, and 4) the collective pause (structured or spontaneous).  Pausing, then paraphrasing are two steps that set up deeper types of discussion.  
  • Paraphrasing.  To help the group be as receptive as possible, avoid using "I" as you paraphrase.  Instead, try using the following openers:
You're suggesting...
You're proposing...
So, what you're wondering is...
So, you are thinking that...

Choose a logical level for your response:  Acknowledge and clarify content and emotion, or structure or bring together a number of statements or issues expressed by the group, or change the level of logic by raising or lowering it.
  • Probing for Specificity.  Human brains form generalizations from diverse pieces of information as a matter of survival.  Therefore, a special effort is needed to gain specificity, a requirement for good group communication and understanding.  Clarify vague pronouns, such as the generalized "they."  Use specific verbs.  Find out what specific rules are behind words such as "must" and "cannot."  Avoid using absolute or universal words such as everyone, all, never, and always.




  • Putting Ideas on the Table.  To present ideas in the spirit of group sharing and collaboration, try using one or more of the following openers:
Here is an idea for consideration...
One possible approach...
This is not an advocacy, I'm just thinking out loud...

Also know when to withdraw an idea if it is getting in the way of moving forward.  Make sure, too, that the group works with data, not just impressions.  
  • Paying Attention to Self and Others.  People have differing learning styles, so interact with them by recognizing their language and physical cues.  Listen for whether group members use visual, auditory, or kinesthetic modes of thinking and expression:  I see, I hear, I feel....
  • Presuming Positive Intentions.  Phrase and frame issues and concerns in positive rather than negative language.  
  • Pursuing a Balance Between Advocacy and Inquiry.  Using both cognitive and emotional means, spend equal amounts of time "advocating for one's own ideas and inquiring into the ideas of others."
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