From co-operation to collaboration


A common theme with my clients at present is the desire and need to get their employees collaborating. Organisations everywhere are seeking better performance, increased levels of creativity and innovation, and a reduction in functional silos.  

Collaboration is a step further along from co-operation, which is what most workplaces achieve. Collaboration means people co-designing solutions together and creating outputs and outcomes together that they couldn’t achieve alone.

Just telling people to collaborate better doesn’t produce the outcome though.Collaborating is an adaptive issue. A challenge that requires people to make different choices and take different actions. Most importantly it requires a deep sense of trust. You see, collaboration requires people to put their trust in and be trusted by, others. In most organisations, with a predilection to individual accountability, collaboration generally requires people to choose to put their future career in the hands of other people. 

Three ways you can help your team members to choose to actively collaborate.

1. From an external systems perspective, consider the ways in which existing reward and recognition systems either encourage or discourage your people to collaborate. Is performance only assessed on an individual basis? If so, you have some work in overcoming this signal about working with others. Maybe a discussion with your team members about the intrinsic rewards of collaborating and even agreeing on ways in which potential collaborators could celebrate their mutual successes.

2. Help your potential collaborators explore what real collaboration would look like and feel like. Consider the ‘why’ of their collaboration and facilitate a discussion that weighs up the pro’s and cons of genuine collaboration together. Because there are always pros and cons. Collaboration can be messy and time-consuming. It also means our ideas are modified by others along the way. Talk it through and help them weigh it up.

3. As a part of the weighing up the pros and cons, there are huge personal developmental advantages to collaboration. People can contribute their strengths: consistently developing them and having the opportunity to be more creative. This facet is deeply satisfying to the individual and delivers in bucket loads for the collaborative effort. Help people get in touch with how it will feel to collaborate in playful and fulfilling ways.

If you’d like to know more about guiding people to collaborate or the ultimate expression of collaboration in practice, my team coaching program … please contact me. I’ll shout the coffee!