Collective Next turns 10 this year. This is the second of a series of posts (read the previous one) in which people at our company share what we’ve learned about helping companies come together, think better, and move forward over the past decade.

Before Senior Principal Jennifer Rutley joined Collective Next in 2005, she led Capgemini’s Accelerated Solutions Environment on the West Coast, where she designed and facilitated collaborative work sessions to help global and Fortune 100 clients build and implement business solutions. Before that, Jennifer spent three years as a consultant with Ernst & Young, where she worked on projects focused on process re-engineering, shared services implementation, and financial systems implementation.

We talked to Jennifer about many topics. One of the most interesting parts of the conversation was how collaboration works differently in practice than it does in theory.

What have you learned about collaboration that you didn’t know 10 years ago?

I knew a lot before I came to Collective Next, but here I’ve definitely learned the value of elongated collaboration, moments that occur over weeks or months, a day here and a day there. I’ve learned the value of collaborative learning through dialogue and peer work as opposed to the traditional training module and communicating via PowerPoint. Collaboration is more about learning from one another so people can rise as a group. It’s not dogmatic. It’s a more flexible approach in which we meet clients where they need to be. We don’t dictate how collaboration must happen

How is collaboration different from the conventional wisdom?

Collaboration is about letting complexity and chaos happen, then rising together to a higher order. Sometimes people say they’re having a collaboration session, but it’s not really collaboration because they don’t allow complexity and chaos. They resist difficult conversations and it’s just superficial. In a way, people have to feel uncomfortable for sessions to be effective, to get the right things said. That’s the kind of real collaboration that yields real results.