As I sit and listen to some classical music, the idea of collaboration comes to mind. To make the music, the symphony needs to work together, yet play as individual musicians. I cannot play your part, nor can you play mine. By playing each of our parts together as part of the bigger whole, we can create something bigger than either of us. We call this the “primacy of the whole”-the sum is greater than the individual parts. This is the basis of collaboration.
Pulling together a group of people into a team and instructing them to use “teamwork” or to “work as a team” does not equate to collaboration. A recent presentation made sense of this. Wikipedia© would not have come together as we know it if all the contributors had been put in the same space and given the instruction to create the site. The online encyclopedia exists precisely because the contributors did not know each other and did not work together in forced cooperation. The contributors created the information because they collaborated on a greater vision—each adding a piece to the whole with the greater end in mind. This does not mean that everyone agreed or was in total alignment on how to achieve the vision. Rather the contributors had the opportunity to discuss, debate, decide and then support the outcome.
So how do we get true collaboration? Here are some thought starters to point you down the right path towards more effective collaboration:
· Create a problem or issue statement. Use this to help guide where you ultimately want to go.
· Set a vision or picture of the result, but do not flesh out details. Let the collaborators add the detail and refine the vision as they go along.
· Be open to whatever outcomes the collaborators determine. Do not have a set solution in your mind. Avoid having solutions in search of problems.
· Give people time to both innovate (create or produce) and incubate (think about creating or producing). Leonardo Da Vinci used this cyclical approach to great success.
· Utilize modern technology to facilitate collaboration (instant messaging, video conferencing, collaboration sites and tools). Embrace virtualization as a means to end, not as the end itself.
· Select various personalities, rather than various skillsets or capabilities to work in collaboration. This will allow the team to determine which skills are needed rather being limited to the available skills. IT will also foster healthy debate and discussion of possible outcomes.
· Eliminate interruptions and distractions as much as possible. Shutdown email, lock your office door, go to a quiet place away from others to get things done. Institute “No Talk Thursdays” where silence, rather than conversation, is the rule.
These few items should help you get started on collaboration that is more effective. Let work happen organically. Do not try to force it and the beautiful music will result.