Redefining Collaboration – Beyond Information Sharing
I think what gets defined as collaboration and
collaboration software today misses the mark.
Collaboration seems to get trapped in the
structure or schema of information sharing as
defined by a shared repository of documents,
instant messaging and/or a shared web meeting.
Collaboration certainly includes information
sharing, but what if collaboration is really much
more? What if it’s a lot like ball room dancing?
The skill and practice involved in knowing the steps,
the art of following and leading, the art of listening
and responding to the same beat, to each other.
That was probably a leap, no pun intended.
But stay with me.
To me, collaboration looks like the ability to not
only exchange information, but to listen, agree in part,
course correct, adapt and innovate. When collaboration
is working, no one person is always in the lead. The lead
changes. Each party has to be willing to give up some power
to really empower collaboration.
It doesn’t quite sound like just sharing a common
Excel document or to-do list, does it?
What if collaboration (to really generate great
results) truly needs to be redefined. It, in fact,
is a lot more radical a process than is normally
encountered in your average business meeting.
If you’re thinking like I am, collaboration has much
more to do with a style of working together, with
emotional IQ, with interpersonal skills, than it does
with information sharing.
Here’s a couple rules that seem to fit my idea
of what a redefined collaboration looks like:
1. Be willing to talk and inquire/listen
2. Engage difference points of view and practice
“agreeing-in-part”, not immediate challenge and refutation.
3. Be flexible, each party has got a style, an approach,
a history, but to collaborate you need to adapt,
implement in some part your collaborater’s input,
their approach, their view of the world.
Roger, a consultant friend of mine used to say to
his clients… “Dance with me.” We all need to learn to dance.
Collaboration needs to be redefined beyond
sharing information and meeting support,
to include critical interpersonal skills in
listening, managing different points of view,
and integration of input from multiple sources.
Let me know what you think.