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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Tips for Making the Norms the Norms

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


May 24, 2015

“Habit is a cable. We weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it.” Horace Mann

On May 18, we explored the depth required to truly move a behavior to an automatic skill. This week, we consider some tips for ongoing attention to the Norms of Collaboration. Please feel free to send ideas you have found useful to Thinking Collaborative at

One school we worked with began every meeting with each person making a commitment to work on one norm for that day. In small groups, each person actually stated the norm. In larger groups, the group member wrote down the norm. At the close of the meeting, a short time was given for reflecting on the day’s use. The reflections can be done in round robin fashion, in writing in the form of a journal, or simply with silent reflection time. The important work here is the mental work of making a commitment and reflecting on the effects of the commitment.

Another school we know of uses the norms with students, putting them in “kid” language. Kids are also asked to reflect on the norms as they work collaboratively. When we align the system with everyone being held accountable, habits begin to develop.

Another method to consider in institutionalizing use of the norms is to collect data and reflect on the data. Sometimes a group chooses one norm to consider and a person is designated to collect data on that norm. One example was a group working on “paying attention to self and others.” The data collector simply recorded how often each person gave input on the topic of dialogue. At the end the group had insights about each individual and about the group in its effort to balance participation. A variety of methods can be used depending on the norm being chosen.

Consider how you might proactively invite more conscious attention to use of the norms as a way of working in each and every collaborative gathering in your workplace.

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