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Entries in compromise (1)

Wednesday
Jan112012

No Compromise

Compromise is talk; Collaboration is action. In compromise, everyone represents his own interests and fights to satisfy them in a negotiation of terms. In collaboration, every person works together to build something that changes as it grows and defines itself.

Compromise requires opposing sides and conflict. It makes conflict the central element of problem solving and puts a premium on maintaining an asymmetry of knowledge. Cat and mouse. Cops and robbers. Court-ordered minimums. 

Nobody gets his way in a compromise, and everyone must cooperate for a payoff that is less than the sum of the parts. It’s every man for himself.

Collaboration requires cooperation, too. But in collaboration, everyone pushes his interests to the center of the table. Knowledge is shared, not hoarded. Expertise is offered, not auctioned. Self-organizing maximums, as long as social anxiety doesn't turn it all to mush.

Collaboration can create something greater than the sum of the parts. It satisfies the separate interests each participant has, while illuminating a bigger, shared interest underneath it all.

Compromisers don't share. They mind turf. In fact, that’s what they were doing the entire time you wondered what the hell they were doing.

It is difficult to collaborate with compromisers, because they cannot contribute to the actual work of a project. Contracts become the main product for compromisers, and those who plan on breaking contracts love nothing more than to draw one up. “It won’t work without us,” is a favorite slogan, because it absolutely could.

A compromiser can't imagine playing a game without any rules. Have you played the exciting game without any rules?

The words say it all. “Compromise” means to settle differences with mutual concession or reciprocal modification of demands. “Com + promise” literally means to declare what will be done, together: to promise something together.

Col + laborate," on the other hand, literally means to engage in productive activity, together: to labor on something together.


Henry Clay of Kentucky, The Great Compromiser

Beware the compromiser. Promises over action, concessions over gain, his incredible devotion to finding a balance between the slave and free state.

The compromiser fears he has nothing to offer in collaboration. He is correct. If not in the beginning, by the end, he will leave the business of enforcing rules to people who, for better or worse, never wanted them.

We think the same things at the same time. We just can't do anything about it, together.