The Art of Successful Collaboration

Create to CollaborateI have been a fan of collaboration for many years at work. “Many hands make light work”. I hardly questioned that collaboration can actually be a hindrance. Sure, I am – like many – aware if one doesn’t pull his own weight the whole team suffers. Although, I didn’t click what prevents this.

Today I came across this article on 99U by Ron Friedman. Using the example of good and bad marriages as well as John Lennon and Paul McCartney of The Beatles he shows that collaboration comes with an opportunity cost. And if that isn’t paid, collaboration pulls everybody down.

I don’t intend to repeat his examples and arguments, please read the above article for it. No, I want to highlight what to do to make collaboration successful (which Ron does towards the end of the article)

The best (visual) design tends to happens late at night.

Jasper Stephenson, a 10 week intern at Adaptive Path said this in his parting blog post.

If I think back to much of my favorite work, the execution part has come from trance-like zen states where I work until well after midnight — not by necessity, but by nature of having a constant flow of ideas that demand to be realized. There’s much to be said for having a team all present in the same space at the same time and the cohesion of ideas that comes from that, but it’s hard to enter a trance of exploration and creation in such an active office.

And this is pretty much what Ron said about The Beatles. The ideas, the rough diamonds, the blink “let’s do this” doesn’t come from the group huddle. It comes from the inspiration at a “non-busy” spot. Like a shower, mowing the lawn, or watching the waves roll in. Then the first bit of hard work starts, working on the very inspiration so I can explain it to my friends.

The Spark

A blank canvas is not stimulating, having 4 or 6 people staring at a blank whiteboard doesn’t help either. A spark is necessary. Much is said about Brainstorming as an idea generating stimulus. Not so. Brainstorming works when you have a facilitator and a topic. Even better, if your participants know the brainstorming session is tomorrow and they have individually time to think about it even if only unconsciously. Ron Friedman demands “homework is necessary”: [The Beatles] collaborated after they [individually] had gotten a piece as far as they could, and were ready for suggestions.


When you meet to discuss the merits and the foolishness of your idea look at your team. Do they tend to agree? Do they have the same sort of thinking? Do they excel at the same disciplines? Let’s face it, while we like people who agree with our ideas – it makes us feel good!, we learn more if people have different view points, different strengths, and can say so without being blunt but in a supportive manner.

Collaborations are most effective when teammates complement rather than replicate one another’s abilities. 

Summing it up

Collaboration works best when

  • there is a rough idea that is the result of hard work – alone
  • there is a team that complements each other
  • there is a team that prepares for collaboration
  • there is a willingness to critique consciously
  • there is a willingness to accept such critique
  • there is a recognition the final outcome is a team effort



Geek Time :)

Tonight I’ve finally completed my private local network set up. It is probably nothing for some and quite complex for others. So, here is my little challenge I started with:

Our house is divided into 2 parts, one has the incoming phone cable the other nothing. We have a staggering 15 (!) devices using our Internet from all parts of the property. I wanted a central system for back up and file sharing, a network printer and good wireless coverage while minimising cost. Sounds good?

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Building – a thought process

In parallel to our land hunt we had some big discussions about the house itself. Susani and I have the same principal ideas but a lot of different opinions in the detail.

(1) The house must be environmentally friendly, cosy, have a character, warm, and beautiful.

(2) It can’t cost an arm and a leg.

(3) we want to use solar hot water and power.

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Destructive Cooperation

Last week I attended a short workshop. My expectations were more on the curiosity side than anything else. The workshop’s premise was

  • people are happiness seekers
  • people are social
  • people want to be good

That resonated with me well as I strongly believe people are inherently trying their best. Now after an introduction by Niki Harre (University of Auckland) she organised an impromptu role play. There were 3 groups of 4 people and they were asked to come up with ideas for a birthday party for a 5 year old.

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Go and repurpose ideas!

(1) Creative Rituals

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a blog post by Justine Musk that talked about Creative Rituals. I love creativity and always thought it’s the opposite of habits. Creativity is doing something new, different, and exciting. And habits or rituals is doing things the same way, consistently and repeatably. I thought, aren’t creative rituals an oxymoron?

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Straight Up Air Fares

Air NewZealand shows their sense of humour on April Fools day 🙂

Hi Frank ,

Grabaseat is proud to introduce STRAIGHT UP FARES, the next step in the evolution of affordable domestic air travel on sale to anyone who can ‘stand it’.

We’ve installed hand holds on the cabin ceilings of selected domestic flights, to allow even more passengers onto our planes. We can now house up to 69 extra people standing in the aisle for the duration of the flight, massively increasing our capacity and drastically lowering ticket prices.

Straight Up fares are just one more example of your favourite cheap flights website thinking outside the square. If people are willing to stand for hours in queues, at footy matches or in pubs, we thought, then surely they won’t mind standing up for an hour or so on a plane to save themselves some cash.

If you’re as excited about all this as we are, then hurry up and book your little piece of carpet before someone else does!

Find out more about Straight Up Fares and book here.

The grabaseat team

Don’t know how long they keep it up, had to share it 🙂 Ha ha Ha


Don’t underestimate Solitude

My wife told me a story once:

A simple man who lived in India heard his beloved guru was coming to town.
He went there to listen to his teachings. But he was late and the doors got closed in front him. The only thing he got told by his guru was “Go away”.

He took it literally and this became his mantra: “Go away”. He went out of town and constantly said “Go away”.

Years went by and people had come to see him and to listen. Then, one day, the guru was back in town. The simple man made his way back to town to see him.
Meanwhile there were far less people to see the guru then he expected. On some questioning he heard about the simple man who had been seeking solitude.
Even more, he was surprised that this man was coming to see him and they met face to face. “Who are you?” asked the guru.

The simple man took this as a new challenge and ran away resuming his solitude and saying his new mantra “Who am I?”.

Again years went by and more people came and listened. Then, the guru was back in town. Again the simple man made his way to see the guru.
This time only a handful of town people actually came to see the guru. And some were quite clear about the reason. The guru demanded the simple man being brought to him at once.
He needn’t to wait long as the man was already there. “Don’t run away”, the guru said, “tell me what is happening?”

“First you told me to go away.”, the simple man said. “That was all I needed to know at the time. My head was full of ideas and dreams. I couldn’t get a firm grip on any of them. Finding solitude helped me clear my mind.”

“Then you came back and asked me, ‘who are you?’.”, the simple man continued, “It allowed me to look into myself and explore who I am. I know myself now. Thank you.”

The guru couldn’t believe it. He started laughing. The simple man was perplexed and then realised what he had missed. He started laughing, too and walked away. Not much later he ascended.

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