Collaboration is king. We know that it gets us to better ideas and outcomes; not to mention it makes the process of work more meaningful and enjoyable on the whole. But it's a tricky thing to get right. We are rarely trained in how to collaborate, or given the skills and language needed to foster its development. And often, we blame the process of collaboration, rather than our own lack of strategy in managing its nuances. First and foremost, it's worth mentioning that not every decision needs to be done in a group. Rather than feeding every problem into a collaborative setting, pick only your most complex problems that need diverse and multiple perspectives and work towards that as a specific outcome. Richard Watkins, of Let's Go, has spent years trying to crack the code on collaboration. Here are five essential principles for making sure collaboration brings out the best in your team and drives optimal results.
1. Get Aligned
This critical piece is about ensuring everyone on the team understands why cracking the challenge matters and the size of the opportunity ahead. It's about getting people aligned and excited as to why it's even worth the hassle of going after. Rather than just try to make your team understand the size of the prize, take some time to help them understand what is at stake if you don't take any action. Often, the cost of inaction is a greater motivator than the potential rewards.
2. Get Structure
Throwing a team in a room and asking them to collaborate will invariably lead to chaos. Even collaboration needs a clear leader to own the process and output. Without this foundation in place, collaboration is destined to fail. Collaboration done right has tight parameters around scope, what resources are ready to be deployed and a clear understanding of who will drive the work forward after a solution is reached. Knowing that a plan is in place to turn strategy into action will help the team commit to the project.
3. Get Diverse
Rather than playing to the politics of who should be in the room, think through what perspectives will help unlock your challenge. Ultimately, you want a diverse group of minds working against your complex challenge, as this will provide the most enlightening insight. Be sure to include an outsider's perspective on your challenge; this is often magically revealing.
4. Get Active
To show your team that change is happening, and this project is real, the project must move from strategy to action, fast. This is about adopting a hacker mindset and making strides of progress clearly visible. To facilitate this, teams must know how success will be measured, who is in charge and how teams will know when to change course.
5. Get Human
Collaboration requires constant nurturing, reassessment and patience. As Watkins says, "We are born in groups, we live in groups and most of what we achieve is in groups. Don't get daunted by working in collaboration, but be prepared to bring your human skills to bear." Effective collaborations requires a different way of behaving and interacting in a meeting. These 'soft skills' give way to the resilience, commitment and camaraderie needed to get a group through inevitable adversity that will appear.