The other day, I went with my granddaughter to the playground and watched her as she dove happily into play with the other children. I envied her ability to simply become part of the group. It was lovely to see the easy cooperation that danced among them as they shared the various pieces of playground equipment and discussed the merits of this climbing apparatus over that. It was then I began to think about collaboration and what it means.
Some people think that collaboration is just like that… playing and working together cooperatively for a common purpose. In the case of the children in the playground that purpose is simply to have fun. But, I think collaboration, while having elements of that, is more. It is a labor of love ~ deeper and more focused . It holds more tension and requires us to listen to each other and communicate on a variety of levels through diverse means.
Randy Nelson, Dean of Pixar University made reference to this in a keynote speech he made about collaboration. He describes it as “co-operation on steroids”, an apt description, I think.
My definition goes like this:
Collaboration is the act of coming together and working with another, or others, to create something that goes beyond the ability of any one person to produce.
Here’s what I think it looks like when it’s in action:
Those who successfully collaborate:
Engage in, and value, conversation
They take an interest in others. In fact, they use conversation as a simple yet very effective way to learn about others and the potential they may have for working well together in collaborative efforts.
Find ways to draw out creativity in themselves and others
At Pixar, they use improvisation as a tool for opening doors to new ideas and perspectives. Others use a variety of brainstorming techniques. No idea is discounted or censored, just played with until it either becomes something bigger, or fizzles out.
Actively seek self-knowledge and Learning
Those who know what they’re good at and enjoy, also know how they can make their best contribution to the collaborative effort. They use their curiosity as a tool to explore and discover new possibilities.
Invite Contribution and accept what is offered without judgment
Often it is the case that someone will offer an opinion or a piece of work and our first instinct is to look for flaws. Those who collaborate productively resist the temptation to do this, choosing to build on what is offered instead through questions and discussion.
Make Others Look Good
In his keynote, Randy makes reference to making your partner look good. To me, this means focusing on the work and the contributions others make before seeking personal recognition
Manage disagreement well
While we might like to think that effective collaboration does not include disagreement, it does. Those who are skilled collaborators see the value in the tension that disagreement can produce and use it as a bridge to get to something different, or something better.
The bottom line for me is that collaboration is hard. Its success depends on making the work more important than any one individual. It asks us to subordinate our desire to compete with others and instead find personal satisfaction in the joint effort. But, done well, collaborative efforts produce some pretty amazing, and very successful things. Just ask Pixar
What do you think? What would you add?