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.

Collaboration

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

 

 

Delays and Changes

opportunityWednesday last week proved being a turning point in my life.

Tait announced a restructure and as part of it my role got disestablished. Now this has 2 consequences

(1) unfortunately our land purchase is delayed as without an income stream the bank doesn’t lend us the necessary funds. Understandable. I talked with the vendor letting him know. He was very understandable and happy to hold the purchase until we are in better shape again. Good on you Jeff!

(2)  I have a fantastic opportunity to review what I want to do in the future 🙂

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The Liability of Complex Communication

Guide4ClearYesterday I found a study published by the University of St. Gallen “Complex to Clear – Managing Clarity in Corporate Communication“.

The authors Martin J Eppler and Nicole Bischof argue convincingly a business case for clarity in all types of corporate communications. They address reports, emails, and even Twitter. That fascinating study can be downloaded from the University’s website and there’s also a presentation on Slideshare.

I was so fascinated by the clarity of the report – it follows to a great extent the recommended principles very closely – that I decided to blog about it straight away. It took me just half an hour to read through the 67 pages.

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Positive Surprises

attidue drives successI’d like to share 2 stories that happened yesterday. 2 stories that have a common theme. 2 stories that mean don’t be afraid to ask.

(1)

For years I’m playing social football. We have a pretty good team and most importantly we have a lot of fun. Yesterday we started with the bare 11 where our striker Dave carried a strained achilles tendon and wasn’t full of running. Midway through the first half we “lost” another Dave with a pulled hamstring. And before halftime a pinched calve muscle made me hobbling, too. At half time we debated briefly what to do as we had only Dave’s son Joel at the sideline. We decided it doesn’t hurt asking the other team “The Spikes” if they would be happy considering Joel was 23 and we are playing over 45’s. When I asked Pete, the captain, he agreed despite some of his team mates opposing it. Look, I said to him, Joel is a referee not a player himself. If you are not happy, that’s okay. So, they let him play. We had a much more enjoyable game with equal numbers and a 3 all result was a fair outcome.

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Is there a gender stereotype for leadership behaviour?

Let me be provocative and say:

  • Men are risk takers and can lead us to new grounds.
  • Women are nurturers and lead the ongoing well being once we have arrived.

There is plenty of evidence that support my theory (Maybe we are different, or simply search Google “women nurture” and “men risk taking“). And I guess there is plenty telling that’s rubbish.

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