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Three tips for escaping the creativity peloton without giving up on collaboration

If you’ve ever watched a road bike race like the Tour de France, you know the peloton is the big group of riders that cluster together during the race to reduce drag. It’s a great example of collaboration in action. But let’s face it: the people in the middle of the peloton may go faster than they would otherwise, but they don’t win the race.

When it comes to creating and innovating, most companies (and employees) are in the peloton. They are doing enough to survive, but they are stuck in the pack. And if they stay in the pack too long, they lose.

Escaping the peloton is tough. Often, you see a cyclist break away, sprint for a while, only to get sucked back into the main group over time as the pressures of making a go independently prove too much.

You’ve probably felt this way at work. You come up with an amazing idea, one that will change the company forever. But little by little, people—even the well-meaning ones—chip away at its soul, until the idea goes from being amazing to, well, average. You end up being sucked back into the peloton.

After this happens one too many times, you may feel like you want to stop collaborating and try to make things happen on your own. Don’t do it. Even Lance Armstrong could rarely break away from the peloton without his teammates’ help.

Instead, here are three tips to help you escape the creativity peloton without giving up on collaboration.

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The difference between collaboration and clobberation

Seal colony sez: you can't force the true collaboration, yo!

Seal colony sez: you can't force true collaboration, yo!

Picture this: You are sitting in a meeting, and someone from another department is beating you up because you won’t go along their vision. They’ve never asked your for your opinion, they didn’t involve you in their process, and now you are sitting there getting railed because you are not sure what they are pushing is the right thing to do.

And then it comes. You get accused of not being collaborative.

You were just a victim of clobberation.

Clobberation [klob-uh-reh-shun] (n)

The art of beating someone into submission under the guise of collaboration.

I first heard this term from my friend Todd Barr a few years ago, and it’s stuck with me ever since.

Especially for us open source folks, who think of true collaboration as something almost holy, getting clobberated is really, really painful. And the hard part? It is sometimes difficult to articulate how someone clobberated you, but you almost always know it when you feel it. You feel anxious, cheated, even guilty.

So what’s an honest collaborator to do?

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