The young lieutenant of a small Hungarian detachment in the Alps sent a reconnaissance unit into the icy wilderness. It began to snow immediately, snowed for two days, and the unit did not return. The lieutenant suffered, fearing that he had dispatched his own people to death. But the third day the unit came back. Where had they been? How had they made their way? Yes, they said, we considered ourselves lost and waited for the end. And then one of us found a map in his pocket. That calmed us down. We pitched camp, lasted out the snowstorm, and then with the map we discovered our bearings. And here we are. The lieutenant borrowed this remarkable map and had a good look at it. He discovered to his astonishment that it was not a map of the Alps, but a map of the Pyrenees. Weick’s thesis is that people find their way forward not necessarily because they have a good map or plan. Instead it is because they “begin to act, they generate tangible outcomes in some context, and this helps them discover what is occurring, what needs to be explained, and what should be done next.” They don’t need to have a clear vision or goal; they only need to have some shared sense of the challenge or problematic situation they are trying to overcome (in the case of the soldiers it was to get back to base). Collaborative teams typically make progress not by carefully executing an excellent plan to achieve agreed objectives, but by acting and learning from this acting. When things go well, they do this (like the soldiers) with hope, alertness, energy, flexibility, and mutual support.
Collaborating with the Enemy: How to Work with People You Don’t Agree with or Like or Trust by Adam Kahane