Saturday, December 19, 2009

Collaboration is hard...

Collaboration is hard. We throw this word around all the time as important and we speak of the need for it and yet it is extremely hard to attain. Sometimes we confuse it with cooperation. Cooperation means working together to achieve the same goal or end. Cooperation tends to lead to compromise depending on the situation. You work out what you can live with in order to achieve your goal.

Collaboration is a bit more complex. It requires true dialogue. We could define dialogue as exchanges or conversations between 2 people. In the original Greek context, it was an intellectual debate and exchange that developed discussion and led to rational, intellectual conclusions. The conclusion was not set at the beginning of the dialogue but the conclusion was reached through a journey of logic and rational arguments.

As we apply dialogue to the verb collaborate, it is not compromising a position. It is a sharing of ideas to create a position together. The process is a key ingredient to the outcome.

Within collaboration, an element of sacrifice is present. It is not about giving up an idea. It is about giving up some control. It means extending trust and faith to the person you are working with. It means it is okay to not have all the answers and to walk in with ideas that need to be molded. This is difficult. And it is much of what Web 2.0 is about. Web 2.0 allows, facilitates, and promotes collaboration, and content is seen in process. The transparency can be messy and unpredictable. Additionally, the content is frequently added to the conversation. My observation is that it is rarely taken away. For example, many Google docs become messy with time because people don't want to delete others' ideas. It is meant well and signifies respect for others' ideas. However, deleting some content is necessary to get to the final conclusion. This is where trust plays into engaging collaboration and the value placed on others.

Collaboration takes effort. It is not easy but as we practice and strive for it, it can become more a part of how we operate and our everyday interactions.

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