Collaboration is a way of energizing people to work and think together. It is the exploration of multiple options from various perspectives. Collaboration is the process of people thinking and working together to discover ways to solve problems; address complex or cross-functional issues; improve processes, products, or systems, or invent new ones. Creative, collective thinking applied to the work we do leads to examination of how we do it, and how we can do it better. This means discovering new ways that are better, simpler, more efficient, or faster.
You will discover many advantages to getting the individual contributor’s thoughts for greater collective thoughts. The benefits are enormous. In the words of Dee Hock, founder and former CEO of Visa USA and Visa International: "Given the right circumstances from no more than dreams, determination, and the liberty to try, quite ordinary people consistently do extraordinary things. With collaboration, the whole is not the sum of the parts. The whole is exponentially greater than all of the parts. Individuals join the cooperative effort by pooling their personal resources for superior results. Shared knowledge earns knowledge in return, and pooled knowledge consistently leads to better outcomes. In the information era, sharing information is important because it leads to understanding and keeps you in the loop of what is happening. Sometimes just being in the know opens a wider range of opportunities for action."
When problems are complex, seemingly insurmountable, or just frustratingly difficult to solve, answers and breakthroughs are more likely to be discovered through a collaboration of diverse capabilities or divergent viewpoints. The process of collaboration can transform conflicting points to common goals. Collaborations provide an abundance of ideas and options in a short period of time.
Searching for new and better ways in today’s morass of possibilities is more than one mind can handle, or at least more than one mind can handle as well in the same time frame. There are countless tasks and complexities that are beyond the capability of one person alone which can be handled by the concentrated efforts of many. There are additional reasons for collaboration. It will help improve production and product quality in shorter time frames while contributing to profitability.
Even contributors who do the same job, but do not ordinarily work together can benefit from sharing tacit information. This is the kind of information that is often not written anywhere, but learned through experience and passed on by word of mouth. The knowledge of how to perform tasks they all do separately can be profitably shared. The result is that each party in this collaboration gains personally from the collective knowledge of the group.
Most often the main obstacles to successful collaboration lie with the collaborators. One of the most common obstacles is a negative or self-serving attitude. Careful consideration must be given to the attitudes of the collaborators. Collaborators need to respect each other for their talents and skills, and they need to focus on outcomes, not personalities. Positive, solution-oriented attitudes should either be part of the selection process or the collaborators’ development process. Training collaborators in conflict resolution and goal setting strategies will also pay rich dividends.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has." – Margaret Mead