At Business School Lausanne, we have enthusiastically embraced the “collaboratory” method in running community events since early 2013. The “collaboratory” is an open-space, creative method for hosting meaningful conversations where various stakeholders tap into the collective intelligence to generate solutions to complex problems.
The idea originates from the visioning work of a large group of people – including scholars, artists, consultant, students, activists, and other professionals – who worked together on the 50+20 initiative aiming at radically transforming management education.
By fusing two elements, “collaboration” and “laboratory”, the word “collaboratory” suggests the construction of a space where people explore collaborative innovations. “The laboratory also nicely implies a notion of exploration and experimentation, thus staying clear of the notion of perfection or standardization,” explains BSL’s Dean, Dr. Katrin Muff. Dr. Muff edited and co-authored “The Collaboratory” book (Greenleaf Publishing, July 2014) which introduces the “collaboratory” concept and offers practical recommendations on adopting this engagement process to harness collective intelligence.
“The philosophy of the collaboratory involves a facilitated circular space that is open to stakeholders to meet and discuss burning societal issues. It is an open space for all stakeholders where action learning and action research join forces, and students, educators, and researchers work with members of all facets of society to address current dilemmas.” – suggests Dr. Muff in defining what “collaboratory” really means. “It is a place where people can think, work, and learn together to invent their common future,” she continues to explore the concept.
Facilitators of thus collective process are highly experienced coaches who act as lead learners and guardians of the collaboratory space. They see themselves as transient gatekeepers of a world in need of new solutions. Subject experts are responsible for providing relevant knowledge and contributing it to the discussion in a relevant and pertinent matter.
The collaboratory idea has been picked up by various individuals and organizations that represent the education, business, NGO, and social enterprise communities and advocate the benefits of collective thinking in making the world a better place.
“Leaders of the future will need to have an intrinsic understanding instead of how networks operate and how to collaborate and build coalitions of the willing,” says Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, in the foreword of “The Collaboratory” book.
Inspired by this engaging and transformative approach, BSL has organized and supported a number of collaboratory events in Switzerland and abroad:
- Fashion Revolution Collaboratory, October 2015
- The Business School of the Future, UN PRME Annual Conference, New York, July 2015
- Sustainable Water Management, Switzerland, April 2015
- Why School, Sweden, August 2014
- Green Living in Hong Kong, Hong Kong, July 2014
- Consumer Food Waste, Switzerland, May 2014
- Corruption & Business, Switzerland, April 2014
- Economy of the Common Good, Switzerland, March 2013
More examples of collaboratories run around the world are available on the collaboratory website here.
About the Collaboratory online community
The authors of “The Collaboratory” book have created an online space for the global change community and invite everyone to contribute comments and ideas at http://collaboratorybook.wordpress.com/.
About “The Collaboratory” book
“The Collaboratory: A co-creative stakeholder engagement process for solving complex problems” (Greenleaf Publishing, July 2014) explores the transformation that emerges when groups spread around the world working on similar issues discover synchronicities, often cross-pollenating, and collaborate rather than compete.
Offering practical recommendations and benefits, and bringing together insights from a range of experienced academics, practitioners and facilitators, The Collaboratory is a handbook for experienced or aspiring practitioners in all fields of change: in society, in organizations of all kind and in the field of education.
The book is co-written by twenty-four contributing authors. Contributors include Thomas Dyllick, Mark Drewell, John North, Paul Shrivastava, Ronald Fry, Caroline Rennie, Claire Maxwell and Jonas Haertle.
It was also recommended by Peter Senge, MIT and the Society for Organizational Learning: “More and more people today recognize that the problems we face will require an order-of-magnitude increase in our capacity to collaborate across all manner of institutional, national, sectoral, and cultural borders. But I fear the gap between rhetoric and reality will sink this ship before if ever gets out of port – unless the emerging insights from master practitioners like those in The Collaboratory spread quickly.”