Collaborative Efforts as Heart Surgery

Policy Horizons Canada recently released the latest edition of their newsletter, including a great article by the one and only Blaise Hebert, with support from Tabatha, Steffen, and Greg. The article explains the idea that tools are only one part of the collaborative effort — you also need a dedicated community and some sort of plan that includes deliverables/content. Simply using a “build it and they will come” method doesn’t work. People need to be dedicating their efforts towards something, and see that others are doing the same.

I like the title of the article, and want to build a bit more on it. The article’s sub-title is:

Giving a monkey a scalpel doesn’t make him a surgeon

Let’s take that and expand, shall we?

If we look at collaborative efforts as surgery, the example that Blaise and Co. use makes a lot of sense:

  • A community – team members; You need a lot of different skill sets in surgery — not just the surgeon, but nurses, other physicians with certain specializations, medical technicians, etc, all work together for the ultimate outcome.

The talk of lurkers/contributors/core users is interesting. If we stick with this example of heart surgery, all those groups are essential. Even if you’re not involved directly in the surgery, there are medical students who will watch/learn from the experience (lurkers), those who are contributing, but may not have their hands on the heart, and then those who are actually performing the core of the surgery. All groups benefit, and hopefully pass on their knowledge.

  • A place where content can be accessed and built upon – the platform; You need an operating room with the right equipment that all the people in the community can figure out how to use. 

This also means knowing who is in your community. There are different techniques to accomplish the same goals. Knowing your audience, and knowing the platform that the community will be able to access together is crucial for the success of the surgery.

  • Work-related activities to produce content – the heartbeat. You need the patient — the actual thing that the community/platform are being used to work towards.

Of course, you also need a patient, or you’re just a team sitting around. Your community needs something to work on.

With all that said, I think this model misses the crucial fourth step: Post-Operative Care

In any surgery, your care doesn’t end once the surgery is completed and you sew the patient back up. There is post-op care, with some of the same community members (and new ones! You may not need a physiotherapist during the surgery, but they may be crucial to post-op care) who make sure that the surgery itself wasn’t just isolated — there may be exercises to do afterwards, to make sure the person recovers and can continue to live and work in our society.

In many cases, we’re seeing ideas through to the surgery phase. Products are delivered, and people quickly wash their hands of the project (although they may talk about how great the process was). But if there’s no hand off, and nothing happens with the deliverable, then how much was it worth?

Collaborative efforts are excellent, but the crucial last step of ensuring that the project is cared for, and will be able to walk and run later on, needs to be better looked at by those involved in projects. If a new team needs to be formed for that stage of the game (bringing in new expertise), then the surgical team needs to advise on that and start putting together a team that can develop a good post-op plan.

Who would’ve thought we could learn so much from science? 😉


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