At the beginning of Second World War, U.S. troops faced an urgent problem. Japanese code breakers were deciphering America’s secret communications, and the U.S. armed forces were losing supplies and men. But then, an ex-marine named Philip Johnston had a brilliant idea. He proposed recruiting Native American men to collaborate with military specialists and use their complex Navajo language to develop unbreakable secret codes. These Navajo code talkers gave United States a critical advantage that saved many soldiers’ lives (Levenson, 2017).This cross-cultural success story is a shining example of what we can achieve when we are open to the diverse perspectives, skills, and talents of others. If the Navajo speakers and military leaders hadn’t collaborated, many important battles—and perhaps even the entire war in the Pacific—could have been lost.Throughout your life, you’ll have many opportunities to work with people who are different from yourself. You can use your relationship-building skills to create strategies that will help you engage productively with people from all walks of life. Such cross-cultural collaborations often lead to better solutions and more successful workplaces and communities.


You’ve already learned about what makes a truly collaborative discussion—among other things, it’s a conversation in which all participants are sincerely engaged and respectful of one another’s ideas. But how do you foster a collaborative and productive discussion? Here are some strategies to consider.

  • Ask and listen: Collaboration isn’t just about telling everyone your ideas. It’s about listening to your group and asking questions to make sure you understand what they’re saying. Make sure you let people know you hear them—restating what they said can let them know you’re listening and also give them a chance to correct you if you’ve misinterpreted their words.
  • Look for common ground: Even team members who share common goals will disagree sometimes about how to move forward. When that happens, try to find something you can agree on. This will help you strengthen your relationship and increase the chances that you’ll be able to come to an agreement.
  • Share the credit: Remember, in a collaborative effort, credit doesn’t just go to the leader, or to the person who has the brilliant idea that solves the problem or makes the sale. Everyone who was a part of the discussion helped to build the group’s efforts up to that point; everyone in the group has a stake in the positive outcome.
  • Keep it positive: Group collaboration doesn’t always go smoothly. Sometimes, your progress might stall, or group members might start speaking over one another. More serious signs might be a group member disengaging from the process or showing defensiveness about their ideas. Conflict may even break out, indicated by raised or emotional voices.
  • Exploring Cultures.