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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