Collaboration and the Digital Consultancy
The largest sales, the most creative websites and the most effective marketing campaigns are commonly the result of a collaborative effort. Collaboration is today’s competitive advantage so it is worth examining to understand what it is, what it isn’t, and what it takes to harness it’s power.
At its essence, collaboration is co-creation. Successful collaboration is the melding of minds and the merging of ideas from diverse perspectives, beliefs and assumptions. It is about sharing, building, and improving through an integrated and symbiotic effort. While the term is easy to understand, it is frequently confused as an attribute to meetings and discussions – which is not always the case.
Collaboration is something that can happen in meetings, but not all meetings are collaborative. Meetings are often just discussions or a means of gathering people together to do what could have been accomplished individually, through email or by text. Time is often spent talking at people, listening to yourself, evaluating and judging. From this perspective, meetings are useless and a waste of a team’s talent and time.
The Value Of Collaboration
True collaboration is about establishing and leveraging a brain trust of diverse perspectives, for the formation of more meaningful outcomes, and the creation of new possibilities, options and alternatives. Through collaboration, avoidable misunderstandings and erroneous decisions are minimized. This is because insights and opinions are stated openly from the beginning and throughout the process so any necessary corrections or modifications can be made efficiently, with minimal disruption to the timeline and project flow.
What makes collaboration more valuable than traditional meetings is its purpose and intent. Participants are gathered to leverage the group’s geneous, building off each other, filling gaps, making surprising discoveries, and breaking through sticking points. Initial ideas morph over time or serve as springboards to new lines of thinking. making gatherings generative and constructive in nature.
The contrast between traditional meetings and collaborative sessions is further sharpened by its processes. There is a natural flow of communication where people think and speak openly, question continuously, and provide feedback instantly. Alert and active everyone is expected to be tuned in and engaged in order to move the team forward and achieve shared goals.
Collaboration Is Far From Kumbaya
While collaboration does promote a bond of unity and trust, it is not meant to promote blind acceptance, squelch creative tensions or opposing views. Collaboration does not mean consensus. Productive collaboration takes different points of view, different backgrounds, and different ways of thinking. Diversity promotes the needed fodder which homogeneity flattens. A difference of opinion is an essential element to a creative, novel, unexpected outcome, and a benefit in working with an engaged team. In fact, it takes sparks from the rub to see the light.
However, the way disagreements are channeled and converted into productive solutions drives the collaboration process; in other words, working through differences from a solution-mindset, not a combative one. Contention is met with open minds to find nuggets of gold worth extrapolating and using as a bridge to higher elevations of thought.
The Cost Of Collaboration
While the term collaboration is easily understood and frequently used, it is hard to infuse into daily operation due to constraints on time, resources and external pressures for immediate answers. Collaboration takes skill, practice, effort and time. It could also be considered costly. Comparatively speaking, it can be seen as a very efficient use of time if you broaden your view of development to include time involved with corrections, restarts, and delays when using other more traditional methods. Plus, the quality of the end product is much better in collaborating through a co-creation process so the residual benefits could be exponential.
Collaboration is not a one time event, but a fluid, responsive and dynamic approach used to connect concepts, blend combinations, and evolve through iteration. It is a team sport that requires group effort, divergent thinking, competing perspectives, and a blending or building upon collective input. The key is knowing how to capitalize and leverage the team’s expertise, experience, skill and perspective to gain the best solution.