In American culture we idolize rugged individualism. We celebrate the lone cowboy, the rebel, the individual hero. As a result, many of us are not trained to operate successfully in groups. And yet, in my experience, it’s through collective action, collaboration, or “group genius” as Keith Sawyer calls it, that we achieve more powerful results.
That brings me to my favorite African proverb: To go fast go alone. To go far go together.
This proverb first caught my attention 15 years ago when I was training for a marathon. I trained with a running group – a team of people who eventually became my closest friends, and still are today. This “team” has supported each other through life’s major events – good and bad. This team also helped me achieve more than I ever thought I could – in running and in life.
I was reminded of this proverb again last week while working with a team from the African Wildlife Foundation – in Africa – Nairobi, Kenya, to be exact. While we’ve been working together since June, this was our first time together, in person. Wow! What a difference it makes.
This recently-formed team emerged from our few days together as a group who will go far, together. They’ve set ambitious goals for themselves, but now have the strategies, tools and, most importantly, the commitment to each other, to realize those goals.
Spending this time with the African Wildlife Foundation – in the context of Kenya – was powerful. I was reminded of the interdependencies and symbiosis of our eco-system. I saw the ways that many animals, such as elephants, form social bonds, and live in groups to protect and care for each other.
Over the past few years I’ve had the great honor and good fortune to work with many teams to help them become stronger and more effective. These teams have the solutions within themselves. I merely facilitate, nudge, and give them a reason to sit down together and find them. It’s some of my favorite work to do because I always learn something in the process too.