5 tips to make the most out of collaboration

0010063532R-849x565How many times have you heard that collaboration is King?  Why?  It’s creative – each individual has a different way of looking at things, which sparks new ideas in others.

Collaboration is also useful when you have limited resources as it helps to bring together resources, people and ideas.  However, is every collaborative effort successful?  Unfortunately not.

When most people talk about tips to help collaboration, they’ll tell you about this tool, this methodology.  For me, though collaboration is about people.

So, here are 5 people oriented tips to help you make the most out of your collaborative efforts

1. There is a queen bee in every hive!

People often think that when a manager / leader is involved with true collaboration, his only role is to facilitate (Make an action or process easy or easier).  Don’t misunderstand me, facilitation has its place in every collaboration, in fact it is essential.  However, so is leadership.

nCzacjUI’ve been reading a lot about innovation recently and one of the ideas that I’ve picked up is Edward de Bono’s “Six thinking hats”.  Well worth a read if you have the chance.  The six thinking hats discuss the different roles needed for creativity.  One of those roles is the “leadership” role or “administrator” role (the blue hat).  Each collaboration needs a mediator, a time keeper, a referee.  Without this role, you could end up in anarchy.  Someone needs to solve dispute; someone needs to keep track of time scales and deadlines.

Imagine a beehive.  Each bee inside the hive has a role to play and a function.  However, without the queen nothing much would get done.  How will you know when you have achieved a task or a milestone if you don’t have a queen bee?  So if one person doesn’t immediately step forward, elect a team leader for each collaborative effort.  The team leader / blue hat role helps to focus and support the group!


2. It doesn’t take much to curdle milk

Collaboration is dependant on the people in the team and as such it doesn’t take much for it all to go sour.  Being flexible and accepting failure is vital, however if you see a problem, fix it and fast.  Unnecessary red tape, a problem team member, negativity can all cause the collaborative effort to fail.  Identify the weeds and throw them out!

Curdled milk is never salvageable   It will take you less time to identify and remove your problem areas than it will to do the project twice and it’s less damaging to your reputation!

3. Recognise your power users

955071_80397867For those of you who speak IT, you’ll know that a power user is not quite an administrator, but they have more access and more “rights” than a normal user would.  In terms of collaboration, this means that not everyone will put in the same effort and time, not everyone will contribute at the same level.  As well as identifying the problems, identify your shining stars.

Collaboration is about balance and working in concert, pairing needs and working towards (a sometimes but not always) shared goal while accomplishing smaller tasks as you go.  Thinking back to the beehive, if you had the same number of queens and warriors as you had worker bees, the end result would be a mess.  Don’t force everyone to be equal just to be perceived as fair. Give everyone their due and let people contribute what they can.

4. When 10 is not greater than 2

1259849_90935436 (Medium)If you asked someone for a definition of collaboration, they will probably start talking about team work.  We often think of collaboration as a group effort sharing the weight from beginning to end.  However, who says it cannot start small and get bigger?  Projects evolve.  People can leave, people can join as the needs arise.  Leverage the talents you require to get the job (task) done.  If someone is not needed, let them get on with something else.  For the record, teamwork and collaboration are different:

Teamwork = individuals working together for a common goal harmoniously

Collaboration = people with various goals banded together, only a few of which are usually shared

It makes sense then that your collaborative team could and should change as the goals and milestone adjust.  This will make any sudden game changers (new objectives, focus) less of a problem

5. A poor workman blames his tools

0008333352T-849x565There are some fantastic tools out there, both online and off, which can help collaboration.  There are so many tools available that make it easy to stay on top of tasks and easily collaborate with your team even if they are not all in the same room.  However they are just that.  Tools.  Without clear direction, deadlines, updates, people skills and leadership, the best tool in the world will not make your project successful.  You will get out what you put in as we say.  Or if you prefer you will reap what you sow.

In R. Keith Sawyer’s study of jazz performances, Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration, Sawyer made this observation:

“The group has the ideas, not the individual musicians.”

According to Sawyer, more often than not, true innovation emerges from an improvised process and draws from trial-by-error and many inputs, “with sparks gathering together over time, multiple dead ends, and the reinterpretation of previous ideas.”  This happens when people are involved.  Tools will only help you to get there.

Hope this helps!

Alesandra Blakeston

4 thoughts on “5 tips to make the most out of collaboration

  1. I like number 4 “Teamwork = individuals working together for a common goal harmoniously. Collaboration = people with various goals banded together, only a few of which are usually shared”. I’m definitely into collaboration right now. Within our team we have a common goal, but we also depend on people who spend most of their time on other tasks to do their bit. Some of them are happy to work with us. We let the others contribute what they’re willing to do without pushing them (things would turn sour).
    Interesting post!

  2. Hi Alesandra,

    I can’t agree with Sawyer. Only an individual mind can have an idea. No doubt though, individuals working (or playing) in a group feed off, inspire, and push each other to ever better and more refined ideas. Enjoyed the post.

    Patricia at Centre Team has a couple good posts on Collaboration too: http://centreteam.wordpress.com/


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