Collaboration Pattern #5: The Spiral
Updated: Mar 25
We spiral all the time at CoCreative.
No, that doesn’t mean we’re losing it, or stressed out.
It means we are constantly sharing, socializing, testing, and shaping our thinking and goals with others, expanding our circle of connections over time to build growing consensus about the why, what, and how of any initiative or network we’re developing.
Spiraling is about expanding the circle of ownership and deepening engagement as we discuss an initiative's potential goal, analysis, critical shifts, and potential solutions with a growing network of people. For us, it’s a very methodical process—a disciplined pattern we apply to increase engagement across a system and simultaneously create better thinking and solutions.
How do we do it?
We start with hypotheses. That is, even the goal we’re considering for a network is not fixed, but a working version to be tested and validated. If that goal produces the desired effect (“Wow, you guys are crazy, but that’s cool and important—and I want to be a part of it.”), we keep it. If it doesn’t produce that effect, we keep playing with it until it does. Same goes for our systems analysis, critical shifts, and potential solutions.
We first test our thinking with “friendlies”—that is, people who are likely to be supportive of what we’re trying to do, people who are open, but will also be honest and tell us when we’re off course, or too radical.
Then we might spiral out to people who are less familiar with us and our work, but not the issue or subject matter, but who are still likely to be open to what we’re proposing.
Then we expand to “frenemies,” unusual suspects, and then people who are likely to be indifferent but not hostile to what we’re proposing to do. (We don’t find engaging with hostile people that useful, though we sometimes do it for fun! :)
Being systematic about spiraling helps us:
Identify the strongest potential participants for our network;
Incubate a fragile idea and make it better, faster, stronger before it gets exposures to colder climates;
Put our best foot forward and build legitimacy and trust with an expanding and increasingly diverse group of stakeholders who may be key to our success;
Iterate toward a goal that’s meaningful, powerful, specific and has that hairy-and-nearly-scary effect that attracts people to it.
You can also think of spiraling in a very practical, even mathematical, way: Next time you have an idea, share it first with one person, then two more, then four more, then 8, and keep going until you have 128 people (or 1,024 people) who have become cheerleaders for your idea. Just know that it probably won’t be the idea you started spiraling around when you started!
For our more detailed understanding of each of the 5 Patterns of Collaboration, see our article on each pattern below.
The 5 Patterns of Collaboration: