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A Failure to Communicate


There is a famous line in the movie Cool Hand Luke: “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” I believe that in many communities, we have been historically guilty of failing to communicate, but even more deadly, we have failed to collaborate. Which as sins go, in today’s world, is detrimental.


The Merriam—Webster Dictionary has two definitions for collaboration:


1. “To cooperate with or willingly assist an enemy of one’s country and especially an occupying force.”

2. To cooperate with an agency or instrumentality with which one is not immediately connected.”


Too many times, we have treated collaboration as something tawdry as described in the first definition. Over the past decades, our treatment, as such has caused us to lose ground in comparison to our global competitors. The reality is that we should be embracing the second definition.


We are strong, have more capacity and thus more ability to compete for economic investment and growth if we come together in a spirt of collaboration. Which is not to say that, if we come together, we lose our sense of independence and self-determination. Rather, we must understand and support the idea that collaboration is a function of an enlightened self-interest. To paraphrase Zig Ziglar, “To get what you want, you have to help others get what they want.” That is the core of collaboration.


We have a great opportunity to collaborate in our community around building our capacity o grow jobs and regional wealth by working together on the development of a regional vision that address the age-old question, “Who do we want to be when we grow up?” or better yet, “What do we need to do to be relevant and robust for the next generation?”


At the Birmingham Business Alliance, we are embracing a vision to build a region that can compete on a global basis in terms of not just job growth but the capacity of building people and institutions that have the most ability to establish opportunity for generations.


We are blessed in this region with some incredible organizations that on their own are good but, who have the chance to become great if they embrace the ideals of sharing expertise, capacity and knowledge. Partnerships should be sought, not avoided.


I remember as a child reading about Café Guerbois in late-1800s Paris, where now-great artists such as Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Paul Cezanne hung out together, critiqued each other’s pieces, arranged to show the group’s work, and in dire situations, ensured that each had enough money to continue. Their collaboration ushered in a brand new era of art. A few years ago, I attended a course in Paris about this group of men and their impact on each other. The art historians leading the program believed that even though their artistic and personal styles were different, it was their proximity and commitment to each other that made each member extraordinary.


Develop mutually beneficial partnerships.


As we continue to see collaborations develop between the private sector and faith-based communities, we need to embrace these partnerships and actively seek opportunities for the charitable, economic, education and local governmental sectors to create the coveted wins—wins that our constituencies expect from us, wins that ultimately benefit us all, and wins that should be celebrated by all.

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