Etymology of “Conspire”

Gail Taylor is doing exciting new things with Tomorrow Makers and is seeking conspirators. Going through the new website today, I learned:

To conspire, in its literal sense, means “to breathe together.” It is an intimate joining.

Here’s what Google has to say about the etymology of “conspire”:

Here’s something I wrote on Faster Than 20 a few years ago about literally breathing together when collaborating.

Lessons from Sports #738: Alignment and Long-Term Planning

Balancing short- and long-term strategic planning is hard largely because they often conflict. A great example of this is when the Green Bay Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005. It was a shocking choice, because the Packers already had a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Brett Favre, and they had short-term needs at other positions. Furthermore, Rodgers was far from a sure thing. The Packers were sacrificing their immediate effectiveness for a potential Favre replacement 3-5 years in the future.

In sports, part of how you enforce the discipline of balancing the short- and long-term is by separating the roles of coach (short-term) and general manager (long-term). Andrew Brandt, the Packers former vice president of player finance, described how this dynamic played out when choosing to draft Rodgers:

We get to 24 and we got one name staring at us, and it’s Aaron Rodgers. We know we have the most durable quarterback in football [Favre], so I can just sense [in] the room to my right were the coaching rumblings where you could just sense they’re like “Oh my God, are we really going to do this? We’re going to take a player that can’t help us this year, maybe not next year, maybe not the year after, maybe never.” There was some rumbling. And I sense what was going on to my left side, which is more management oriented, and it was the same thing they always say, which is trust the board. We put in all our scouting, we’re going to take the best player available. And obviously management won out over coaching. It was one of those ultimate best-player-available decisions. But you look at the Green Bay Packers that year, that’s the last thing you would think that we’d pick.

It turned out to be the right choice. Rodgers replaced Favre three years later (while Favre was still good), has been two Super Bowls (winning one), and is almost surely a future Hall of Famer.

What would it look like if more organizations (especially smaller ones) had separate roles responsible for short- versus long-term planning?

(The article above is also an excellent case study on the imperfect science of decision-making.)

In other sports news, the historically great Golden State Warriors eliminated the Portland Trailblazers from the NBA playoffs, 4-0. Afterward, the Blazers star point guard, Damian Lillard (who had an outstanding series), commented on how “together” and “on the same wavelength” the Warriors play.

It’s extraordinary commentary coming from a great basketball player on a very good team. At this level, every team invests heavily on getting everybody on the same page, and all good teams achieve that. But there are clearly different levels of alignment, and when you reach higher levels, you play at higher levels. I think it speaks powerfully to the importance of alignment, which most organizations in other fields do not value as highly as professional sports teams.

(As an aside, my friend, Pete Forsyth, wrote a great article about Lillard, free licenses, and Wikipedia in 2014. I recently helped make Pete famous in the Oregon sports world this past week when the above, Creative Commons-licensed photo I took of him sporting his Lillard jersey at a Warriors game appeared in this Willamette Week article this past Monday.)

What Alignment Feels Like

What does great collaboration feel like? Why is it so valuable to invest time and resources into getting a group to align?

If you’ve ever experienced great collaboration in any context, you know the answer. I loved reading race car driver Ashley Freiberg’s account of this feeling after running the New York Marathon for the first time:

I had been to New York a few times before, and usually people are heading in their own directions trying to get to work or wherever they need to be. What was amazing was that this event really pulled everyone together for one common goal. To them the runners weren’t just people running; they were their family, neighbors, mothers, grandpas or sisters pushing through adversity. It was inspiring to run alongside these people who were in wheelchairs, who were blind or who had prosthetic legs and were still going strong. I ran with people who were young and old and who were from countries all over the world. The crowd went absolutely nuts no matter who you were.

I really can’t describe how powerful this was to me mentally. Every time I felt like I wanted to give up and slow down and walk, the crowds, runners, my BTWF teammates and my friends who came from all over the place to support me gave me that extra push to keep going.