What are you good at? Most of us have some aspects of our work that we find easy and satisfying, that we do with some enthusiasm. Imagine if, most of the time, that is what was asked of you. If we really worked collaboratively, that is how it would look.
The word collaboration means working together to achieve an end goal. The implication of this is that we each bring our particular strengths to the task, so that we can achieve it more easily and effectively. We use this principle when we have different teams to design something, to implement the design, to test that it works properly, etc., but we often forget a vital element of collaboration: that they work together on it. If the end product is to be as intended, then all of them need to be involved in every stage of the process.
I’m sure you can think of your own examples of where this clearly hasn’t happened: the user guide written in language that the layman doesn’t understand; the chair that looks beautiful but is uncomfortable to sit on; the monitoring process that takes longer than the task it is monitoring.
How do we enhance collaboration?
Collaboration is a mind-set. It is about clarifying what we really want to achieve right at the start of something, and then identifying what each of us can contribute to make that happen. It requires that we let go of the drive to prove ourselves to be ‘the one’, and instead use what we’re good at to make something happen well. What we bring may be a technical skill or it may be a personal quality: how would we manage without the one who lightens the mood, the one who encourages everyone else, the quiet one who spots the way through the discussion to useful action!
Collaboration begins with seeing everyone else involved as a potential ally in achieving an effective outcome. For this to happen, we need two main areas to be built on:
- Building relationships in the team as a whole
- The ways we communicate with one another
If we don’t really know the other people in the team, then we won’t know what they can contribute, other than their technical skills, and we won’t build the trust that underlies collaboration, and enables us to know who to call on for help, or what they can bring.
And we need to communicate effectively with others, to build and reinforce relationships, and to maintain the feeling of working together. Emails being sent across the office simply don’t cut it!
It is natural to us to collaborate. We are a living model of how to do that well: our bodies are a brilliant example of collaboration, each part contributing to the whole by working together and communicating with each other to maintain the balance required for our health. We could learn from ourselves, and achieve miracles if we chose to!