Collaboration Tip #4: DON’T Collaborate Unless You Must

Collaboration sounds so simple. It's a kindergarten value, right? Don't eat paste. Don't run with scissors. Play nice together in the sandbox. But if you've ever worked in a team within your own organization, much less with a team made up of people from across multiple organizations, you know it's hard. So, what does it take to make collaboration work?

If you can solve a problem on your own – either by yourself or with just your team – then do. Collaboration across multiple teams or organizations is really hard and not for the feint of heart. In fact, most of the problems we face in our lives don’t actually need collaboration.

DON’T Unnecessarily Co-Create

Most problems are what Ron Heiffetz called “technical problems”[1], meaning they have a relatively clear and understandable cause and solution (more on this in Tip #1). These kinds of problems – from changing a single light bulb to changing an entire supply chain of light bulbs to changing the lighting standard in an entire country – don’t necessarily require collaboration. They require the power and authority to make a fact-based decision.

Additionally, co-creation doesn’t work if a group comes together for the first time and tries to immediately find a collaborative solution. If they do, the solution will tend toward the lowest common denominator. The time and effort expended won’t justify the results.

DO Come Together to Co-Create after Exhausting Individual Genius

Co-creation requires all participants to come together in the spirit of collaboration. This means that participants should have already exerted their own genius and looked at all the other alternatives prior to meeting with a group to collaborate. With this setup, participants are ready to come up with better solutions than they would have on their own. Participants will leave from the effort feeling fulfilled and open to co-creation in the future because of the ingenious solutions that arose.


[1] Adaptive Leadership, Heiffetz et al.

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The course was great! Great value and great insights into collaborating with various partners in multiple situations. It really change my thought process and how I view situations with our clients and stakeholders. - CollaborateUp Academy Participant
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The course actually aids with more than just collaboration - it helps drive thinking into issue clarification, meeting handling and setting up, communicating with stakeholders. I loved it! - CollaborateUp Academy Participant
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“Even with a diverse set of stakeholders and a very limited timeframe, the CollaborateUp Formula allowed us cut through a complex set of issues and develop a concrete and pragmatic proposal for tackling a very tough problem. Richard Crespin is exactly what you want in a facilitator, someone able to bring people together to recognize their shared goals and the best ways to achieve them.” - Amit Ronen Director, George Washington University Solar Institute
I soon discovered that it doesn’t really matter whether your introduction to CollaborateUp is through an issue solving workshop, or at an event as Richard brings all the chaos together with his savvy charm and good humour - the most important thing is that you get to engage and work with these great folks! My biggest take out over the past five years of being a part of their world – collaboration is a process and you’re not going to get very far unless you know what problem you’re all trying to solve together. The CollaborateUp framework helps by asking simple questions to help reveal the big answers. - Cate O’Kane, Founder, &co partnership consultancy