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The Iron Chefs of Partnership

  • By Vision Synergy


Do you know the “Iron Chef” TV show?

This was a show that originally launched in Japan in the early 90’s and then had spin-offs in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Israel. In the show, there are master chefs in an outlandish “kitchen stadium” who compete to quickly create entire multi-course meals around a single theme ingredient, which is revealed to the chefs at the opening of the show. They make some pretty crazy dishes.

I want to use this illustration to explain one of the distinctives about the model of collaborative partnership we encourage in our training.

There are many different forms a partnership can take depending on its size, scope, setting, and structure. Likewise, there are many good models or approaches to partnership in general. I believe that most of the models of partnership you will find are what I call “ingredients oriented” approaches. The model visionSynergy encourages is a “process oriented” approach.

An “ingredients oriented” model will focus on the different qualities, characteristics, or dimensions of healthy and effective partnerships – things like openness, mutuality, accountability, cultural sensitivity, and so on. But a “process oriented” model is more focused on the step-by-step – the actual processes and best practices of developing an effective partnership.

It’s kind of like the difference between a nutritionist (or dietitian) and a chef. Hence, my illustration. You see, a nutritionist can give you all the ingredients for a healthy and balanced diet, but do they show you how to cook it? No. That’s what a chef does. A chef understands the process of making a meal.

So our goal in training is to help others become the “Iron Chefs” of partnership. No matter what their mystery ingredient may be, we want them to have the skills to be able to cook it up into something wonderful.

Now, obviously this is a generalization. Other models of partnership do, in fact, talk about what it takes to make partnership happen. The model visionSynergy uses also, in fact, seriously considers the attributes of a healthy and effective partnership. It’s a difference of emphasis and degree.

So, we tend to focus more on understanding the process of partnership than on analyzing the qualities of partnership. We place less emphasis on talking about the influence of culture, or inequities of power, or issues of accountability, or things like that.

That definitely does not mean such qualities or “ingredients” are unimportant. Don’t get me wrong. Like the knowledge of a nutritionist, it’s important to understand the different dynamics of health in collaboration, especially from a diagnostic point-of-view. You need to know why things may or may not be working right. But you also need the knowledge of the chef, otherwise you might have all the right ingredients, but end up making a big mess in the kitchen.

We find that what people want more than anything is to know HOW to actually DO it.

As they say on the Iron Chef TV show: “Allez cuisine!” Let’s get cooking!