Strategize for Successful Collaboration


Previously I wrote about the role of intent in building effective collaboration. This week I want to look at the role of strategy. As I see it, there are two strategic phases in the creation of a successful collaborative effort.

These are:

  • that which you create BEFORE the collaboration begins
  • that which you create WITH the collaborator

While you are determining if collaboration has merit (honing your intent) you will invariably begin to formulate strategy for how this effort will roll out. In this phase you essentially get to map out the things you want to bring to the collaborative effort (and what you hope to get from it). Once you enter the collaborative space, you will have to accept a different reality, but right now it’s all about you. The idea is to enter into collaboration as well prepared as possible. You want to be armed with ideas, goals and plans as well as with the openness and sense of possibility that the collaborative process thrives upon. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Your ideas matter; what you bring to the table is as much as 50% of the collaborative effort.
  • Time is precious; sort out your thoughts now so you can spend more time in collaboration later.
  • Keep an open mind; your ideas may be great but don’t become stuck on them. Collaboration requires compromise and cooperation- you cannot collaborate by yourself.
  • The selection of collaborator(s) is as important as all the ideas and planning you can do. The ideal collaborator is someone with whom you get along, who shares your goals, who brings things to the table you do not possess and who has a level of ambition similar to your own.
  • Be clear about your relationship with cooperation and compromise- if these things are not in your vocabulary, I’d say that collaboration is not for you.

Now that you have formulated your ideas, plans and goals and you have engaged the person(s) with whom you will collaborate, you can move on to the second strategic phase of collaboration. A few things to consider:

  • Each participant has something to offer, in their own way; it’s the goals that are common. Collaboration is best conducted in an ego-free zone.
  • Entertain all ideas with an open mind. The best ideas are often not your own.
  • Differences of opinion are healthy- they generate otherwise unrecognized possibility.
  • Agree on roles and tasks but acknowledge and allow for flexibility.
  • Check in often and thoroughly- there is no need to allow surprises to develop.

The time and effort put into planning collaboration and to creating the collaboration space is of course only the beginning.

Next week I’ll take a look at pulling it all together with action steps.

2 responses on “Strategize for Successful Collaboration

  1. Some of the best collaborative efforts I have professionally happened more or less by happy accident. I met someone and ideas and actions clicked. In the past, it never occurred to me to think about collaboration more strategically, (silly me), perhaps because I often undervalued what I had to offer, and I was relying on serendipity to offer the occasion for collaboration. Assuming a 50% split would be a fairly radical notion for me! The good collaborative efforts I have experienced have occurred in areas where my skills are specific, fairly rare, and well known both to me and the other person. I knew I had something to offer, and that was undeniable in the circumstances. In other words, no hesitation or reason to shy away thinking the other person was of MORE value than me in those circumstances.
    I have been observing someone who is terrific at this, and he is always looking for opportunities to collaborate. Everyone he meets is a valuable resource. Everything he has, materially and intellectually is also a potential resource that he is willing to offer if there is a need and a way to work together on a project. ("I have some old spare parts we could use to fix that!", "Oh! do you need a truck, too?" "I'm sure I have a large fish tank in the garage for the mermaid you found on the beach!" ) He is constantly connecting the dots between people and things. Everything and everyone is of value for… something. It is pretty wonderful to see.
    I have not quite got the knack of that, yet, but I can see why it is important, and also that it is a more fun, playful and enjoyable way to work with people! Also if you assume that everyone has something of value, then it goes without saying that you do too. You just have to figure out what IT is!
    Thanks for another thought provoking post. Be well!

  2. Ed Drozda says:

    Thanks so much for this insightful comment Catherine. As one who thrives on "flying by the seat of my pants" I am less inclined to plan collaboration than I am to jump first. For those who struggle with collaboration I hope these ideas pave the way to improvement and will provide some hope.

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