This is not the first time I have reflected on this theme, indeed all my books have collaboration at their heart but every time I travel, I end up reflecting about the divisive and polarised times we're living in and the things we can learn from others.
Some of you who know me, know that one of my favourite places in the world is Medellin in Colombia. I returned there a few weeks ago after five years away. It is a wonderful place; a city with a universal feeling of pride and purpose, where nearly all citizens, across the varied social strata, are working together with a vision, to improve the lives of all. Five years ago, there were challenges around safety, to the point where I needed a security guard…now that’s totally unnecessary. It is a remarkable success story.
During the visit, I had lunch with the city’s mayor; Federico Gutiérrez. He is passionate about inclusive and collaborative action, constantly learning from people and organisations who both support and challenge his thinking.
What struck me most, was his desire to constantly learn and develop. Medellin is a fast-developing environment due to its commitment to pragmatism not ideology, to a consensus derived from learning and respect, not conflict and separation.
Contrarily, a great deal of western politics at the moment, especially in the UK and US is still worryingly driven by works such as the mythical Chinese General, Sun Tzu. The Art of War, which dates back to the 5th century BC and advocates a far less collaborative vision.
It argues things such as “to fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
It is this combative and aggressive battle terminology used frequently by politicians today that, in my opinion, has become so damaging. It encourages actions which are unsustainable and the antithesis of collaborative practices. This rhetoric is about control not empowerment, creating a climate of fear, mistrust and smoke and mirrors.
It is no way to run a business let alone a country.