Collaboration Pattern: Lightning Conductor

When I “blogged”: “Sam Ruby’s”: “slides”: from his “presentation”: at “ETCon”: on lessons learned from running the “!Echo wiki”: I noted that I thought he had hit on the basics of several collaboration patterns.

I’ve put together the first draft of “LightningConductor”: (named in honour of the metaphor “Sam uses”:


Lightning Conductor


Group of people working collaboratively on a project or problem, especially if they are from diverse backgrounds or interest groups.


Discussions become emotionally-charged, often in a negative way. Some people may deliberately act in ways that impede or disrupt the group effort. The “HiddenAgenda”: “antipattern”: may be apparent.


  • Perceived historical slights

  • Vested interests

  • Unwillingness to negotiate over desired local outcomes in interest of better overal lresult

  • Lack of training / experience with collaborative working

  • Malicious intent from some


One or more members of the group adopt the role of Lightning Conductor – allowing themselves to be seen as representative of the overall effort, allowing themselves to be made a target for emotional attacks and choosing their responses carefully to avoid escalation.

*Resulting Context*

The negative emotional energy of the collaboration is discharged and diffused, allowing work to proceed more effectively. Many participants find it possible to work constructively together once they have expressed their negative feelings or concerns. Others, who perhaps had malicious intent, will become frustrated at the lack of a matching emotional response and drift away in search of more responsive prey.

Proactive application of technology to business

My interests include technology, personal knowledge management, social change