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Capitalizing on Collaboration: 4 Tips to Make the Most of It

You’ve read it a million times — collaboration is king in agile business, it’s one of the best ways to be effectively creative, and bringing limited resources, people, and great ideas together is how successful organizations rise above the rest and remain ahead of the game. Well, plan to keep reading it, because it’s absolutely true. Here are 4 tips to help your team continue capitalizing on collaboration on your way to the top.

1. Every Cell Needs a Nucleus

Sometimes we get these crazy ideas about collaboration that change its effectiveness and alter its purpose. Collaboration works because it makes the most of the resources at hand by aggregating them and abandoning traditional hierarchies — but that’s not to say that form and leadership should be tossed out the window. Think of collaborative teams as cells, with all of their lovely powerhouse mitochondria and hardworking ribosomes. Every part has a function, but none of the pieces can get much done without the nucleus. Team leaders matter, even if they’re more of a mediator than a commander. Putting someone at the core of the group doesn’t diminish collaborative efforts; instead, it focuses them and provides support for the team.

2. One Bad Apple

Because collaboration is such an interdependent activity, it doesn’t take much to trip it up. That’s why we’ll reiterate the importance of flexibility and accepting failure with our dying breath(s) — that said, if a problem can be eradicated, it needs to be. Things like unnecessary paperwork, or a team member that’s not really invested in outcomes, can cause dissension and delays. Finding the weaknesses in a team or process and weeding them out as they’re discovered isn’t going to waste nearly as much time as redoing work (plus, it’s not as embarrassing as having to apologize to your stakeholders for screwing up when you could’ve prevented it).

3. Not Everyone is Created Equal

Another misconception about collaboration: everyone involved has to put forward the same time and effort, and produce a commensurate number of deliverables, as everyone else. Not so, and actually, that’s kind of impossible. Collaboration is about balance and working in concert, pairing needs and working towards a not-always-shared end-goal while accomplishing smaller milestones along the way. Do you have any idea how terrible an orchestra would sound if it included as many trombones as flutes, or multiple conductors? Don’t set unrealistic expectations or demands for the sake of forced fairness — it’s a recipe for setbacks.

4. Two Heads at First Might be Better Than Twelve at Once

We’ve written before about the differences between collaboration and teamwork: while “teamwork requires individuals to work together for a common goal harmoniously,” collaboration “bands together people with various goals, only a few of which are usually shared.” We tend to think of collaborating as a group effort, with a number of contributors coming together for a project and sharing the weight from start to finish. But sometimes collaboration is more of an evolving process that starts with one or two people, eventually swelling out to include others or, when one person’s role is complete, releasing them. And that’s totally okay — in fact, it’s smart to utilize collaboration’s pliability. Reprioritization, turnover, and disruption become much less impactful when the structure of your partnership or team isn’t entirely dependent on a fixed foundation.

May is collaboration month here at Mindjet! Read what else we have to say about it here.