It may just be a matter of getting your spouse/significant other to take out the trash within 10 minutes of being asked, with no negotiation of terms involved. (Yeah, wishful thinking. I hear you.)
Collaboration certainly is being buzzed around the internet block and blogosphere, let alone in books being published on the topic.
What does it really mean and, more importantly, what does it actually look like? Because, to the best of my (possibly limited, but that ain’t necessarily so) knowledge, “collaboration “ is probably one of the best conceptual shape-shifters I can think of. In the business world. On the home front. And just about everywhere else, too.
Some of us see “collaboration” as building consensus.
Working towards a common goal. You know, all joining hands and deciding to get along together. So we can hit our quarterly sales goals. So we can design that jet engine. So marketing and sales actually communicate with R&D – this time around. And while I wish collaboration was this easy – because the world would be a far more gracious place – it’s hard enough getting two people to agree on how to approach a problem (like when to take the trash out). So getting a group of people to collaborate? C’mon man (coming off a football weekend here, folks, bear with me).
Then there is the concept of “collaboration” as regularly being associated with solving a problem.
It seems like there always must be a problem that needs to be solved which catalyzes people to come together. I don’t know about this. To me, problems are negatives. People don’t see solutions unless there is some recognized or defined inadequacy in “the way things are.” Or your consumers are telling you about product defects while the rest of you are basking in the glory of your latest product launch. Oops! Boy, did you drink your own Kool-Aid!
I mean, think about baking a birthday cake. Our family tradition is to bake a red velvet cake and customize with the color of the birthday person’s choice. My last cake was Smurf Blue. My choice. OK, back to baking that cake. There is collaboration. Shopping for supplies, the choosing of the color of the cake, family members participating in the preparation and baking of the cake (with the birthday person observing and laughing). Does this sound like collaborative problem solving? Sounds like fun to me, and a bit of mess to clean up. No problem here! Just collaborative fun and yum.
Then there’s the collaborative event I attended on Friday, September 16, 2011, hosted by Maria Vedral, Bob Dean and Richard Flanagan using thinktank software. Just a bunch of us coming together to get some thoughts on the table and start to work through them. What was interesting was the overlapping experiences of so many of us participating in this virtual event.
We came together, online, in the spirit of collaboration: goodwill, non competitive idea sharing with an intellectual posse of sorts, and going for those “aha” moments.
No one was holding their intellectual cards close to their chests. No agendas but to collaborate, rather selflessly, I might add. The best way to share ideas. I certainly know I had more than a few ideas I threw out there on that highly interactive virtual platform.
In fact, this virtual “meeting of the minds” venue really got me jazzed. I started to look at my own deliverables and consulting style a lot differently. I also aha!-ed a major root cause in getting my clients’ on the same page. I contributed to the group and they certainly catalyzed my thinking. And it was fun. Right up there with baking birthday cakes.
I like this form of collaboration.
We all were relaxed, for starters. We were thinking not only way out of our boxes (and we normally are “known” for thinking way, way out of the box). We actually were contemplating using the entire volume of the box in which we normally think. My grey cells were certainly stretched! Stuff started to percolate and still is bouncing off other ideas and business histories stored in my brain.
Collaboration, when done well, allows you to connect stuff stored in your brain….
Differently. Thinking out of the box may involve pick-and-pull of ideas you normally wouldn’t put together so that you have a new outcome. A different type of idea. A concept that keeps building on itself. Hmmm…..