Theory of change

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Basic Framework

Collaboration is a holistic craft. You get good at craft through practice. In order to improve our collective collaborative literacy, we need to find ways to encourage and support practice. Ultimately, the path to this is to focus on practitioners.

We do this by:

  • Modeling skillful, high-performance collaboration (especially continuous improvement)
  • Synthesizing the principles, practices, and lessons learned of high-performance collaboration
  • Nurturing and supporting other practitioners

There's overlap between these areas, as indicated in the venn diagram to the right.

  • Model + Synthesize — Continuous synthesis is an important principle of high-performance collaboration, so if you're modeling, you're already synthesizing. The key distinction here might be intention, specifically for whom.
  • Model + Nurture — If you're modeling, you're working with others, and if you're being an effective facilitative leader, you are helping to lift those with whom you work. You can be even more intentionally about this by inviting, welcoming, and mentoring emerging practitioners and colleagues who want to shadow.
  • Synthesize + Nurture — Synthesis can form the framework on which you teach and nurture other practitioners as well as the hook to draw people to your work.



I use fitness examples a lot to describe what I'm doing, as it's visceral and accessible, especially when it comes to grasping high-performance and the ecosystem at large. In the fitness world:

  • Model = Getting really fit myself, maybe even competitively. Create workout equipment.
  • Synthesize = Writing down how I get and stay fit — principles, practices, etc.
  • Nurture = Helping friends and family get fit. Teaching classes. Starting a gym.


  • Model + Synthesize = Log my progress. Film my workouts. Take pictures of my meals.
  • Model + Nurture = Working out with other people. Making sure everyone at my company is fit.
  • Synthesize + Nurture = Writing a book. Maintaining a fitness website, where I'm proactive about engaging with my audience / community.


  • Model = Cook great meals. Start an amazing restaurant. Design my own cooking tools.
  • Synthesize = Write my philosophy of cooking. Recipes.
  • Nurture = Teach other people how to cook. Talk about food with friends.


  • Model + Synthesize = Take photos of the meals I prepare. Do videos of me cooking.
  • Model + Nurture = Invite and mentor stages. Cook with others for work and play.
  • Synthesize + Nurture = Share what I'm writing / capturing.


We need lots of people doing all of these things in order to foster a healthy ecosystem of high-performance collaboration practitioners. Where to prioritize depends on the practitioner as well as the state of the ecosystem.

  • What are the accessible examples of great, high-performance collaboration?
  • Where is valuable information on high-performance collaboration?
  • Where do I go if I want to get good at collaboration?

Here's my current analysis (December 30, 2016) + Google Presentation source: