"Politeness is the poison of collaboration" – Edwin Land

Mitch shares a list of 15 quotes on collaboration, including one by Edwin Land:

Politeness is the poison of collaboration.

My Comments
1. In my post The 3P’s of Collaboration I talked about “practice,” and wrote “In order for people to work with other people, there needs to be a fundamental set of collaborative practices at play. Practices such as respect for the individual and their viewpoint, awareness of the strengths that each person brings to the joint activity, commitment to work through issues to completion, and trust that each person is working towards the best outcome for the whole team … are core and fundamental to effective collaboration. There are others too – this is just the start of the list.” Politeness, as such, was not a practice I noted.

2. On the one hand, politeness is critical to collaboration. If the people you work with are impolite, rude, and harsh in their way of speaking and collaborating, then it can lead to the termination of collaboration.

3. On the other hand, politeness could be the “poison” of collaboration if it’s taken to an excess, and people are unwilling to challenge the thinking of others, propose different ways of doing things, or criticize an idea or concept. They are being too polite, and are unwilling or afraid of stepping on another’s toes.

4. So, it depends. Respect is essential. Trust is essential. Excessive politeness – far too much or far too little – will be a poison to collaboration. But appropriately used, I think it’s necessary.

5. A risk of always working with the same group of people is that you each internalize the expected reactions of your collaborators, and therefore change / morph the way you speak and engage. This can introduce an inappropriate level of politeness, and therefore mixing things up, as the authors of “Connected” documented, can re-jig the patterns and get rid of this inappropriate politeness.

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