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Go Quickly. . . or Go Far?

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. . . If you want to go far, go together.”

                                                                     . . . . . . African Proverb

 

It’s always tempting to do things ourselves—after all, can’t we do it better (and quicker) than anyone else?  But the proverb cited above suggests that we may be able to do it quicker—but perhaps, in the long term, not better. 

Psychology tells us that groups generally outperform individuals—because of the multiple perspectives, energies, and intellects that can be brought to bear on a problem.  But groups take time to develop—and must be nurtured.  So it’s tempting to “go it alone.” 

It’s not just individuals who “go it alone.”  Often in healthcare disciplines or departments will operate as if they were the only ones in the organization and what they decide to do will affect only themselves.  But, of course, that isn’t true.  The world is made up of complex, interrelated systems—and even systems of systems—in which perturbing one part of the system can have an effect throughout the system. 

Our students often rebel at the thought of “another group project.”  I sympathize sometimes.  It can be easier to do it alone rather than engage a group.  But in the real world, we rarely work independently.  I do research with colleagues; I write with colleagues—and my research and writing are the better for doing so.  On nursing units, we have teams of nurses and nursing assistants who provide care together.   Coordination and collaboration are not just terms in a textbook, but the way we practice—and the way we live our lives. 

What is necessary to support coordination and collaboration?  Here’s my own short list: 

  • Spend time developing the group.  Get out that group process book and follow it!
  • Develop shared goals that you are willing to work toward.
  • Engaging in open, honest communication. 
  • Encourage and respect the ideas of others—and make an effort to really, truly listen to those ideas. 
  • Be willing to compromise on the strategies to reach the goals.
  • Learn to reframe negative statements or ideas into positive ones.
  • Take responsibility for your own performance.
  • Celebrate group successes.

 Let’s go far. . . together!


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