How to 'dance' without stepping on toe - THINKERS Notebook

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How to 'dance' without stepping on toe

Earlier this week, I read a brilliant line in an odd little book that has stuck with me ever since.

Here's the line:


“If we are to achieve the quantum leaps the future seems to be demanding of us, we must risk to leave our containers-turned-cages and find the grace to dance without stepping on toes. Others, or our own.”

The odd little book in question is Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie -- "A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace."

I feel confident stating that even its most ardent fans wouldn't object to it being called "odd."

It is unlike any reading experience I've ever had with a supposed business book, what with its ubiquitous illustrations, short parables, and intimate tone. Which is why, in this case, calling it "odd" is just shorthand for saying that it is unique in a profound and meaningful way.

And the line above is a great example.

It stood out to me because it is beautifully written, and, more importantly, because it ties into the concepts of intellectual humility and collaboration that we explored in a recent newsletter celebrating the work of Ed Hess.

By now, we can all plainly recognize that the quantum leaps we've seen in technology over the past decade are merely a precursor to even larger leaps to come. And if we are to survive, let alone thrive, in such an environment, we simply cannot allow something like a job description or old modes of thinking to cage the way we approach our work or life. 

As MacKenzie implores, we must "find the grace to dance without stepping on toes."

What he means by this -- or at least what I take him to mean by this -- is that we must be able to collaborate effectively and think critically if we are going to be part of the solution moving forward, rather than a lingering source of the problem.

And to be clear:

  • The problem is one-dimensional thinking and skills that can be outsourced to a robot.
  • The solution is creative, strategic thinking and compassionate, reflective listening that can function in a variety of contexts in collaboration with diverse groups of people.

In fact, we believe so much in the importance of collaboration moving forward that we are crazy enough to rebuild the THINKERS App with an eye on making idea sharing and collaborating on ideas even better.

Because while an idea stays alive inside of a notebook, it spreads its wings and has a chance to fly, and maybe even change the world, when it is shared with others.

Which is where the dance comes in from MacKenzie's quote.

Anyone can collaborate. We all do it all the time. But it takes a particular mindset, one founded in humility, to collaborate well. 

Not only do we have to be willing to share our ideas, but we have to be willing to receive and consider the ideas of others. And what should we do if another idea fits a particular problem better? We should go with that idea, rather than stubbornly insisting our own -- even if doing so requires us to update something we believe.

That's the way to "find the grace to dance without stepping on toes."

If we aren't willing to challenge our own ideas and beliefs with other ideas, data, and evidence, then we're going to be stepping on toes all over the metaphorical dance floor -- others, and our own.

And while that may be a better way to protect a frail, insecure identity that is tied up in thoughtless beliefs that are strongly held, it's not the path to the kind of open-minded and reflective thinking that is defined by thoughtful opinions that are loosely held.

The former makes good collaboration impossible. The latter makes good collaboration inevitable.

So in that spirit, this week's THINKERS Roundup includes three links with ideas for how you can become a better collaborator and why it's so important to do so. 

But first, a quick update from inside the THINKERS Workshop, where two new event replays are now available -- including one that will help you become a better decision maker.
This Week in the THINKERS Workshop


You may recall that last week's newsletter featured seven steps to make difficult decisions more clear from applied mathematician, author, and entrepreneur Spencer Greenberg.

Well yesterday, I had the pleasure of hosting Spencer for one of our Guest Lectures inside of the THINKERS Workshop. I'm still amazed how much ground we covered in just one hour.

Click to view the replay: How to Avoid Common Thinking Traps That Lead to Bad Decisions.

Additionally, we held the first session of the THINKERS Book Club. The book we discussed was the aforementioned Orbiting the Giant Hairball. Hence why it was top of mind when I sat down to write this week's newsletter. 

Community member and corporate executive Steve Wilson joined me and my fellow community manager Mica to discuss the book and share the lessons we took from it.

Click to view the replay: Book Club -- Orbiting the Giant Hairball

If you have ideas for books we should consider for future editions of the THINKERS Book Club, hit reply on this email and let me know!


The THINKERS Workshop costs $99.99 per year (or $9.99 per month) to be a member. If you own a THINKERS Notebook, then you get in free. If you haven't activated your free account, just reply to this email and let me know so I can send you the special link.
Now on to this week's links ...

Collaboration happens more often than we realize.


Being an effective collaborator can sometimes be a challenge. It's important to not let your ego take hold. When collaborating, it can be so easy to get wrapped up in your own ideas that you're not giving your full attention and consideration to everyone else's.

Watch this 2-minute video: How to Become a Better Collaborator (GCF Learn Free YouTube Channel)

Collaboration is no longer a "nice to have" skill; it's essential.


Collaborating is a no-brainer. You've been doing that throughout school. But a key measurement is how your teammates or collaborators would describe working with you. Are you overly dominant or an absent contributor? Are you a first choice or regularly chosen last for team projects? Successful collaboration means more than getting the project done. People have to enjoy working with you.

Read: These 3 Career Skills Will Make You Invaluable to Your Employer (U.S. News and World Report)

How many of these traits do you possess?


Companies can’t make forward progress if their employees can’t work well together. Time has shown that without successful collaboration, companies are doomed to fail.

Great collaboration starts with the people. So if you want to get ahead in your career, developing these specific characteristics can help ensure that people will always want you on their team:
Quote(s) of the week

“None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful."

-- Mother Terea