If you have to get inspiration about collaborative working, think big: Gandalf, CEO of The Fellowship of the Ring Startup, has been probably the best ever…
The Fellowship Collaborative Work System of the Ring
The Collaborative Working Environment entry on Wikipedia quotes the Michael Beyerlein definition of collaboration:
the collective work of two or more individuals where the work is undertaken with a sense of shared purpose and direction, that is attentive and responsive to the environment.
In The Fellowship of the Ring you have a couple of individuals with a great project in their mind.
Gandalf: a not so young hipster more interested in books and pipe-weed when he literally stumble on the next big thing.
Aragorn: the last heir of a company that has seen its better days more than 3 thousand years before.
Despite mistakes, with different skills and a great team they will make what will become the best case history ever in Middle Earth…
Starting up a start-up: do the right mix
The Fellowship of the Ring starts up at the Elrond’s Council. It’s like the start of a new project, a project that involves different “departments” (the Free Peoples of Middle Earth).
Sometimes it happens: the departments see themselves not as parts of a whole, but as… well: gangs.
This attitude can destroy a project. This attitude could also destroy a company.
You have the Elves. The IT guys. You have the Dwarves: administration. I’d say that Hobbits are the web marketing department: they had drinkabouts ages before the 3 Beards, they are definitely “social networkers”.
And then you have humans. Basically, the humans can be whatever they want. Probably they are the sales department, but they can be at ease with Elves, Hobbits and Dwarves.
The “departments” at Elrond’s start up meeting don’t like each other. The greatness of Gandalf as project manager is to understand that the project is doomed without a great team working and, even more important, to share that vision with the “departments”. It’s all about motivation. If you have motivation you have a good team, if you really have a team, it can manage crisis…
Crisis management: disruption and lack of knowledge
Disrupt* got turned into a misused and overused buzzword in the startups environment. Everything is probably fine if someone else is using it for you. But if you use it for yourself, it just seems that something has gone wrong and you are trying to tell that the “wrong” was on purpose…
Anyway: a good team can face disruption. And can you imagine something more disruptive than the fall of Gandalf at Khazad-dûm, or the death of Boromir and the breaking of the Fellowship?
Again, what matters is the team: the get the f*ing job done attitude. If Gandalf has been a great CEO / Team Manager, Aragorn is a great Co-Founder / CTO. He is where he is needed when he is needed . He is definitely disruptive when it is needed (the Paths of the Dead) and he has another quality that is so much needed in management: he doesn’t fight battles that he can’t win (leaving Frodo and Sam to their own… task).
The Frodo and Sam voyage to Mount Doom can tell us another important thing: something about knowledge sharing. Nowadays you don’t need to send a Great Eagle to get info. Nevertheless, if the team is not working in the right way, it can happen that you feel like Frodo and Sam after the destruction of the Ring: lost and clueless about the future.
You can have the best management tool, you can put lots of stuff in it, but team members are humans, and you have to stay human when you have to deal with them, even more if the team can meet only virtually: communication within the team is the key to make it work, not to find a scapegoat…
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