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Four Quadrants of Collaboration

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[Not sure what the right place for this article is -- the 4QoC is definitely a Collaborative Tool, but has aspects that are important to consider as part of the General theory of collaboration... What do y'all think?]


What are the components of collaboration? What are the individual, collective, internal, and external factors that influence the collabo mindset-heartset? To organize my thoughts and observations on collaboration, I draw on a Integral Theory framework developed by Ken Wilber and the Integral Institute. There are many layers to Integral Theory, but I have found the uppermost layer, called the four quadrants, to be extremely useful in many realms of my life. For a brief synopsis of the four quadrants, I quote a draft version of Barret Brown’s article “The Four Worlds of Sustainability”, from www.integraluniversity.org.


"The quadrants are essentially four lenses that, when taken together, help us to comprehensively look at anyone, anything, or any event… Each quadrant represents one of four seemingly universal perspectives… [they] reveal the interiors and exteriors of individuals and collectives (see figure [4.0]). [Basic 4Q Image] Like unique windows on the world, the quadrants offer four unique ways of looking at the same thing, each of which reveals different dimensions or qualities of that thing."


[The two-letter codes refer to the position of the quadrant: UL = Upper Left, UR = Upper Right, LL = Lower Left, LR = Lower Right. I will use these conventions from now on.]


In order to better understand the internal workings a collaborative process, I examine collaboration through the lense of the four quadrants. The following diagram proposes a mapping the various aspects of collaboration onto the four quadrants. I intend to experiment with these ideas, document the results, deepen this analysis, and develop design directives throughout the rest of my Gaia University master’s program and beyond.

4Q Collaboration

An individual or group would refer to this map when asking the question, “What are the aspects of an individual (or a group of individuals (or a group of groups)) that should be considered when designing a collaborative project?” This query is the predecessors to the important question, “How do we design collabos?” Or, using the metaphor of a design process, this question is a sort of human ‘site analysis and assessment’, that proceeds after articulating a goal of collabo, and before the actual collabo design.

The four quadrants model also lends another perspective to the discussion of collaboration in the previous section. The skill sets and core competencies of different people can be organized by their location in the four quadrants, thereby providing a map of the strengths and weaknesses of a given group or team. If there are any ‘missing quadrants’, a collabo-designer could choose a new group members strong in that quadrant… or the team could collectively decide to develop their skills to fill in the quadrant gaps.

In general, I propose that very few people are strong in all of the four quadrants. The solo-artist would need considerable time and energy to build up the skills of each quadrant, whereas collaboration can provide a tool and a pathway to quickly assemble effective ‘all-quadrant’ teams capable of whole-systems approach. A deeper exploration of the Integral Model, including not just the quadrants but also ‘levels’, ‘lines’, ‘states’ and ‘types’ (see Integral Theory references), could be applied to further assist in the analysis and design of holistic collaborations.

Thoughts? Comments? What do y'all think?

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