The Five Senses of Life: Touch

I like study groups. They help me make sense of things when things make less sense than a baby narwhal riding a camel in the middle of the Gobi during a spring-time thundershower as a thousand fluffy bunnies do the cupid shuffle with Ryan Gosling on the Electric Triangle.

One of the first things that we are taught in an academic setting is the value of collaboration. As we age advance in our careers, the word “collaboration” changes to “teamwork”.


I’ll be the first to admit that the tech revolution has wreaked havoc on our ability(ies) to play nicely with others. But those skills are ones that can be learned with increased ease. Think of it as a Rosetta Stone for social interaction. With that, there are seven key lessons to learn with we’re trying to reach out and touch hearts as a leader:

  1. You are wrong
    1. That’s right, I said it. All of us, actually are wrong. We don’t have the ultimate solution–and we couldn’t even recognize it if it slapped us in the face with Bill Clinton’s saxophone while wearing Miley Cyrus’ VMA outfit. What we do have, however, is a part of the solution that, put together with others’, can turn into a rather spiffy thing.
  2. They are wrong
    1. Just cause you’re wrong doesn’t mean that they’re right either. Blind following and acceptance is the very thing that cause the Challenger Disaster and countless others. We’ve all got our rights and our wrongs–and knowing when to defend those rights is a key part of growing up.
  3. Give and take
    1. Just like a conversation, a good ideation [sic] session is a conversation not between mouths–but between brains. To take the expression “to rack one’s brains” literally: when we brainstorm, we ALL put our brains into a metaphorical rack, and hook them up. Only when we get a full rack of delicious tasty juicy intelligent brains can we hope to get a fuller [sic] compliment of solutions.
  4. Build
    1. Build your own definitions of things. In the spirit of the bullet point, I’ll leave the rest up to you.
  5. Get to know your team members by name
    1. This is critical critical critical. Beyond making communication easier, names are highly valuable commodities. A name is a key into someone’s heart and mind, but its power lies not in the ability to access those places, but to be able to engage those places. I like my name, as do all of my friends, officers, and teammates. Using a name is the best way to make them feel appreciated–use them!
  6. Try to establish an environment that fosters leadership
    1. This goes slightly hand in hand with number 7. But while teams work best when there is some semblance of hierarchy, the best way to get results is one where everyone has an equal change to stake a claim of ownership in their ideas–such that everyone eventually feels that they contributed to the same idea: because they did. Don’t create an illusion of ownership. Create the ownership for real.
  7. Defenestrate Rank
    1. Defenestration is a fun concept when humans aren’t involved. And to succeed with reaching out to others, we must be willing to throw rank out the window as if it were a rabid hamster. When we all feel comfortable sharing an idea, we all benefit. It doesn’t matter who has which title in an organization when we’re all in it together to make it better. This may be a hard one. Living in a society that loves rank and order, throwing out those same things can, at times, be seen as iconoclastic. But today, there are more and more flat organizations popping up and throwing that stigma off. As a leader, doing away with rank also makes interactions with others in an organization more natural. Just some food for thought.

Is anyone perfect at these?



But the most we can do is try, try, try.

Like the Little Engine that Could, we’ve got to keep thinking that we can and chugging along. Eventually we’ll get there.

PS: If you can draw the scene in the first paragraph and send it to me (contact me on Twitter →), you may be featured in a future blog post!

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