Article Index

Gone are the days when a hero entrepreneur can establish an overnight success based on an individual's singular excellence. Today the key characteristic of exceptional entrepreneurship is collaboration. Increasing complexity in the business world makes it difficult for the single person to muster all the resources needed for a successful business innovation. Many business schools recognize the increasing significance of collaboration in entrepreneurship. University courses on entrepreneurship invariably encourage future entrepreneurs to collaborate in group projects.

All collaborations are not equal. Certain collaboration is much more effective than others. Neuro Linguistic Programming(NLP) scientist Robert Dilts demonstrates a distinctive quality of collaboration that he finds to be a critical success factor in highly successful business innovations. Through the modelling of this collaboration he discerns best practices to increase the presence of this quality in business innovations.

In the last decade Robert Dilts modelled highly successful start-ups in Silicon Valley. In one instance he modelled a start-up that began with an individual leaving his job with an idea. One year later this start-up was sold for $750 million dollars. The complexity of creating this much value in this short time frame could only be achieved through an enhanced collaboration.

In another instance investigated by Dilts, a large telecommunications company organized 600 people to develop a new product. A competing organization set out to develop a similar product involving only 20 employees. This second company was able to develop a better product and bring it to market before the larger company. Both companies relied on team collaboration to develop their similar product. They however differed in the quality of the collaboration.


Levels of Collaboration

Dilts distinguishes three levels of collaboration. The first he terms degenerative collaboration. When collaboration includes high levels of conflict and unnecessary bureaucratic behaviour, productivity can be less effective than the unorganized efforts of individuals. The output of the group as a whole is less than if the individuals were working separately and in isolation.

Basic collaboration, the second level, occurs in most of our work places. Individuals are organized into teams where different roles work together in a division of labour scenario. Individuals contribute as expected without adding anything new into the mix. The output of the group as a whole is roughly similar to what individuals would achieve if they were working on their own. The benefit lies in the organization of different tasks and roles to create a collective product.
Volunteerism would be an example of basic collaboration. Individuals contribute in an assigned role to a group effort. The directive for the project remains in the control of the sponsoring person or organization.

The third level of collaboration recognized by Dilts is generative collaboration where the output of the whole is much greater than the sum of individual efforts. Something new is created. Each individual has a unique map of the world. Bringing these maps together results in a map that is greater than any of the contributing maps.

Matrix management structures occur in the complex knowledge driven organizations where expert leaders form a team of peers of different specialities. They are characterized as having no leadership hierarchy. In scrums a database specialist, a design engineer and business analyst all contribute from their specialities to resolve the presenting scenario. The combination of expertise creates a superior solution to a solution generated by any one individual. A certain degree of generative collaboration is engendered in these teams. At the same time the role structure of these organizations constrains the degree of generic collaboration. The expert roles define the kind of collaboration allowed.

Entrepreneurs coming together to discover Win/Win solutions are examples where the collaboration is not restricted by roles. In these scenarios the attitude is not so much about getting a share of the pie but about increasing the size of the pie.
Each of us with our unique maps of the world approaches an attracting project with a different perspective or vision. An initial vision is only made richer as different perspectives are applied to it. Acute generative collaboration is about sharing vision.


Gregory Bateson and other living system theorists recognize a self-organizing Meta principle called autopoesis. Cells differentiate and organize to create a tissue. Tissues differentiate and organize to create an organ. Organs and tissues organize to create the human organism. Humans self-organize to create a culture. In these scenarios communication seems to happen around an attractor that creates something greater than the parts. Similarly generative collaboration creates a new innovation that is greater than the sum of the ideas involved. Generative collaboration is a kind of hive thinking that brings together separate perspectives and resource centres to create something new that is greater than the sum of the parts.
Dilts introduces the concept of inter-vision to differentiate this sharing of vision characteristic in generative collaboration from supervision. In an industrial setting engendering basic collaboration a supervisor is there to coordinate efforts. A supervisor's role is to communicate the dominant vision to the individuals in that organization. Individual visions are subjugated to the dominant vision of the organization.

In inter-vision the separate nodes/perspectives self-generate communication out of which a meta organization and focus emerges that is greater than the sum of the nodes. This gives me a sense of the immense potential of our species to respond systemically to the environmental, economic, social and spiritual crisis that our planet faces today.

Robert Dilts presents a compelling narrative that makes this generative collaboration easily recognizable as a success factor in entrepreneurial ventures that have high impact on our social and economic system. Once we recognize the principle and potential of generative collaboration and inter-vision our next task is to replicate these qualities in innovative ventures. In this second task Dilts is limited by the tools of traditional NLP.

Modelling and Replication

In his Success Factor Modelling seminars the principle method Dilts uses to replicate inter-vision capacity is to integrate an individual in terms of his Neuro-Logical levels model that he derived from Gregory Bateson's work. In brief he uses a reflective process to identify and integrate the psycho-logical levels which are (1)context, (2)behaviour, (3)competencies, (4)values and beliefs, (5) vision and (6)mission of an individual. He looks for blockages that an individual might experience in the integration process and follows up by clearing these blockages using NLP techniques like the visual squash. He assumes that integrating a person across the Neuro-Logical levels will create conditions within the person that will facilitate inter-vision and generative collaboration.

When Michael Hall set out to model personal resilience he found the modelling tools available in NLP to be insufficient to provide an understanding that would allow for its replication in others. He found layered in the phenomena of resilience were complex phenomena like optimism, flexibility and sensory awareness to name a few. He introduced the meta-states model into NLP to facilitate the understanding and modelling of these complex states of mind.
Subsequently this meta-states model provided the world with a wealth of personal change methods and best thinking practices as a contribution to business coaching practice and to further developing Abraham Maslow's practice of Self Actualization. The field of Neuro-Semantics was thus launched as an emerging academic discipline.

Michael Hall identifies a multitude of meta-states that contribute to resilience and self-actualization. His core trainings provide a method for replicating the meta-states as a vehicle toward self-actualization and enhancing the quality of states and ultimately the quality of one's life. Hall notes that the quality of one's life is best measured by the quality of one's states.

Four Personal Powers

A very significant meta-state captured in Neuro-Semantic training is the ownership of ones four personal powers.

To understand the prerequisites for generative collaboration Dilts differentiates the meta-state of inter-vision with the meta-state of supervision. Inter-vision entails a different state of mind from supervision. Like resilience inter-vision is a complex state of mind made up of many layered mental qualities and emotions or meta-states. Similar to resilience the phenomena of inter vision involves complex states that cannot be replicated with traditional NLP modelling.

It would be very fruitful to add the meta-state model to the task of modelling and replicating the phenomena of inter-vision. With the clearing and integration methods used by Dilts only the obstructions to inter-vision are removed. There is no guarantee that an unobstructed psyche will engender inter-vision. The meta-state model provides a means to discover the distinctive qualities of inter-vision that will facilitate its replication in social innovation.

An important meta-state that facilitates resilience and self-actualization is the meta-state of owning ones four powers. There are two internal powers: the power to feel or emote and the power to think. Our two external powers are the power to act and the power to communicate. Instilling ownership of these powers is achieved by using meta-stating techniques to instill a strong sense of ownership of one's personal powers to think, to emote, to act and to communicate. These techniques actually make a robust link that actually facilitates taking responsibility and control over thoughts, feelings, communications and actions.

In addition to being an important quality of resilience and self-actualization it also appears that ownership of ones personal powers seems to be an important aspect of inter-vision and generative collaboration. Owning personal powers is a key component of emotional intelligence and is critical for healthy and collaborative relationships.

I would like to suggest to the Neuro-Semantic community when modelling generative collaboration that a further distinction to meta-stating personal powers be made. The process of meta-stating ownership of powers usually begins by reflecting on early experiences of ownership in our childhood. For example we recognize that we own our body parts. When we are children we also learn to own things and products of our environment. However extending ownership to the products of our powers seems to be a hindrance to inter-vision. It is essential to our personal efficacy that we own our powers. Yet, applying this meta-state of ownership to the products of our powers is detrimental to a groups capacity for inter-vision..
I have known several artists and technical entrepreneurs who never developed their envisioned product because a major focus was protecting their product. They worried so much about having an idea stolen that it couldn't possibly get the exposure it needed to be a success. Possessing the idea prevents collaboration.

When an individual brings an established project to the collaborative table, she will have to get over the urge to supervise the collaboration. As long as she owns the vision of the outcome the inter-vision of potential collaborators will be constrained. Her vision is the product of her powers. The stronger her ownership (meta-state) of this vision the more likely she is to supervise. Supervision prevents inter-vision.

Likewise if one is collaborating with a presenting project one has to let go of the ideas and resources being contributed. As a generative collaborator one has to have the trust that donating resources to an other's project will create a bigger pie and that benefits will spill over. The Open source programming community exemplifies this giving characteristic of generative collaboration. In Open source computing the source code for applications are made public inviting others to contribute to the overall improvement of the original application by sharing the changes one makes to the original code.

Inter-vision is perhaps even more complex a phenomena to be modelled than resilience. Whereas resilience is a personal phenomenon, inter-vision is a cultural phenomenon only occurring in the context of a group. We might even see it as a group in flow state and thus contrast it to self-actualization that is an individual in flow state.

I have suggested that generative collaboration can be seen as an example of autopoesis, the principle of the self-organizing system. Thus, it has been present in emerging cultural phenomena throughout our history. By becoming aware of this phenomenon, defining it operationally and understanding the qualities necessary for its replication, we can consciously implement it to enhance social innovation and the ability of our species to respond to environmental, economic and political crisis.

Have Something to Tell Us?

Ideas, Suggestion, or Review
Contact Us