An Invitation to the Collaborative Brain Trust

by Kevin Scudder October 02, 2012

When I first heard the name of this Blog my gut clenched like it will during a Team meeting when something unexpected and unwanted happens.  By the silence on the conference call we were on it was clear that others were experiencing their own gut clenching.  Just as I do in a case when I experience that clutching sensation I explored what that clench was about.  My initial feeling was that I was being asked to be part of something that others would consider elitist, arrogant, pretentious, or condescending, all synonyms for the word braintrust.


Quickly, however, I processed through that initial response and came to understand the importance, and absolute brilliance, of the name.


Collaboration is not done a vacuum.  The nature of our work is that we work as Teams, in concert with our clients and other collaborative professionals.  When we train, we do so as a group, which involves an element of bearing witness to and supporting each other’s development and growth.  When we falter, others are there to support us and help us explore what we could have done differently and how we could have done better.  When we have success, that success is shared not only with those with whom we are working but also vicariously with the larger collaborative community in which we practice, as well as through our practice group involvement and the dialogue that happens there.


We are a Tribe.  We are Collaborative in our actions when we address disputes, committed to the work we do and committed to the Collaborative Community.  Our communal intellect, our Brain, is greater than the sum of its parts.  The quality of the individuals doing Collaborative Practice around the world remains one of the greatest untapped resources that our Collaborative Community has.  And Trust.  Trust is essential to the work we do both in our relationships with our clients and in the relationships that we have with other members of our Tribe.


Once a year the members of our Tribe are invited to gather at the Forum to acknowledge and celebrate our existence.  At the Forum we share what we are doing in our smaller groups all around the world, make leaps in our training and understanding of the work that we do, make connections with other practitioners, and gather data to bring back to the communities in which we practice.


Up to now, outside the Forum we have not had a centralized forum where we can continue the dialogue and the connections that occur when we gather in one place.


With the establishment of the Collaborative Brain Trust, now we do.  You are invited not only to follow and take part in this Collaborative dialogue, but more importantly to take an active role in creating the dialogue.


I started off this post referring to the gut clench I experienced, the process I went through to understand my response to the name given to this Blog, and my conclusion that the name reflects, in fact, an element of beauty.  You see, it is YOU that makes up the Collaborative Brain Trust.  And you, and you, and you, and you.


Let’s work together to make this blog an ongoing and viable resource for our Collaborative Community to explore new ideas, old ideas, and the intricacies of Collaborative Practice.  By doing so we, as individuals and as a community, can only become stronger and better at the work we do.

Comments (2) -
stinglg@sva.comUnited States
12/9/2012 7:22:00 PM #

Ah yes, the gut clench.  A phenomena we all experience ... Smile

In an effort to kick this blog down the block a little further, I'd love to explore the gut clenching experiences others have had in their collaborative meetings and how those moments were handled.

Myself, I see them all the time in financial discussions.  Financial discussions can certainly be challenging.  When I first started doing collaborative work, I was much  more bothered by the gut-clench ... now, the benefit of experience and some superb coaching from team coaches has lessened the tightness of the clench, but I still experience them and watch my team members experience them nonethless.

My most recent experience involved a 5-way conversation around dividing a deferred compensation benefit.  The couple dissolved into a shouting match wherein the husband became emotional about his desire to have the money support a special needs child and the wife (who didn't want the divorce) became emotional about having sufficient funds in retirement and her desire, too, to support their special needs child.  I remember looking at the attorneys at the end of a particularly heated moment and seeing their deer eyes in the headlights - they were clearly having a gut-clenching moment!

The conversation came to a point where the husband turned to me and said "Gaylene, you poor thing - do you have to listen to people argue like this all day long"?  The interesting thing was at that moment I sneezed - and as I finished blowing my nose I looked up over my tissue and said "yes, this is actually what I do all day long!".

It was nice that the reaction was that everyone laughed - the levity diffused some tension and enabled me to speak.  I was able to share with them what I heard them say - that despite their very strong feelings about their reasons to share or not share the benefit, they both had common ground on what to do with the money as it related to their child.  It was interesting to feel the tension ease and we were actually able to talk about some creative ways to address what to do with the deferred compensation.

Perhaps not all gut-clenching moments have a happy ending - but I'd like to hear more from others about what they've experienced.

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kevin@scudderlaw.netUnited States
12/14/2012 10:45:18 PM #


Thank you for sharing your experience of your own gut clench.  I find it a very useful term to use.  It perfectly describes for me both the physical and psychological "kick" that happens periodically in life, not just in collaborative cases.  Early on in my shift to collaboration I experienced a lot of fear when I felt the gut clench.  My thought is that the fear was related to my lack of experience and a lower level of confidence than I have now.  

Now that I have more experience and confidence, the gut clench comes with a bit of excitement, and a bit of fear, of not knowing exactly how this is going to turn out.  Being an optimist and having faith in the process, the clients, and the professionals with whom I am working, I figure things are going to turn out, I just do not know exactly how things are going to work out.

My gut clench moment came in a phone call from my client in a case.  He had agreed to move out of the family residence and had been out for a month or two.  When I called him the day before our upcoming meeting to check in with him, he said that he was going to bring up at the meeting that he had made a mistake, that being at the house meant a lot to him, and that he wanted to move back in to the house.

Gut clench time.

I took it well and said I would support his saying what he needed to say, but normalizing for him that we could not predict how things would turn out.

The next day during the pre-brief I let the other professionals know what my client was going to say.

Team gut clench.

Knowing what was coming we made an intention to make a safe space for him to say it and provide support for the Wife, none of us knowing how this was going to turn out.  As he said what he needed to say, the Wife started to cry, then looked at him and said, "Then why did you move out?  We know the house means more to you.  It is too big for me, I do not want the responsibility of the upkeep."

And they agreed that she would move out, and he move in.

Who'd have thought?

The value of the gut clench that everyone should know is that, when you feel it, there is something there that needs your attention.  Ignore it at your peril.  Treat it as an invitation to learn more about your clients, yourself, and your team members.

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