m3-06aDone well (when strong relationships are built and an atmosphere of trust is created which encourages healthy debate) collaboration can lead to wonderful outcomes. But done poorly (where collaboration is forced for collaboration’s sake) the result is often nothing more than endless meetings and costly delays

Whatever form a collaboration ultimately takes for it to be successful there are sets of fundamental principles which need to be understood and applied. The first is that collaboration takes time and energy and adequate stocks of both need to be made available.

To assess whether a prospective collaboration merits such an investment there should be an attempt to estimate the return from a collaborative project against the cost of opportunities foregone and the ongoing costs of supporting the collaboration. While this can only be an estimate and the future cannot be foreseen it does enable those who will make the decision to collaborate or not to collaborate to weigh up the potential risks and potential rewards.

m3-07a 1 Leadership

Without the right leadership, collaboration can go astray” (Prof. Ibarra, Prof. Hansen, INSEAD, in Harvard Business Review: OnPoint – ‘Collaboration That Works. Selected Articles from HBR’ Spring 2014). An effective collaborative leader needs to connect people and ideas outside an organisation to those inside it to bring together diverse talents, structure the collaboration appropriately and to be strong in moving partners from debate to action.

The collaborative leader scopes out the challenge; sets the boundaries; sorts tasks for execution; and is prepared to accept and learn from failure


2 Trust

But for collaborations to work and produce the wonderful outcomes they are capable of, the relationships within them must be based on TRUST. It is trust which is the glue which will hold the parties in a collaboration together; and trust is only possible if there is TRANSPARENCY within the collaboration. So, there must be openness about motives and commitment and resources. If collaboration is forced, simply stitched together because it is seen to be a good thing to do, it will fail – and haven’t we all at some time been pushed into forced partnerships which have become characterised by endless meetings and the waste of resources?

All participants in the collaboration will expect to benefit from their involvement. Where there is the prospect of mutual benefit there will be mutual commitment. Without specific and detailed aims and objectives, benefit may not flow to all involved.

So those intending to collaborate should define and agree their SHARED PURPOSE, commit to an ETHIC OF CONTRIBUTION and agree procedures for co-ordinating their efforts. Contributions should be valued and a reward structure should be agreed. Collaborators good will must not be taken for granted. But successful, trusting collaborations have to have clear boundaries too, not just with respect to who does what and when, but also with respect to each partner’s privacy which should be demarcated and respected.

m3-09b3 Managing conflict

Conflict at some point is not uncommon but it has to be constructively managed. The positive response of partners is to accept that conflict is normal and a constructive part of the creative process. However, it is essential that mechanisms are put in place to manage it with agreed criteria to guide trade-offs as well as accepted pathways for conflict resolution.

m3-0104 Creative thinking    

Motivation of itself isn’t enough, however, there needs to be an idea. But that idea to be meaningful and to attract others to collaborate in its development must be based on perceptive observation and on imagining a possibility that hasn’t either been exploited at all, or exploited adequately by others. As you will now know, innovation doesn’t have to mean the invention of a new machine or potion. It can be the adoption of a new approach. Doing new things, making new things, or doing or making old things in new ways and new ways of getting to and attracting customers.

m3-012b5 Collective creativity

Collective creativity makes an important contribution to a successful collaboration. To work, the authority for ultimate creative decisions has to be understood by all partners and should reside with accepted leaders. Roles should be well defined but with scope for flexibility. The most effective collective creativity scenarios are those in which barriers that normally divide disciplines are dismantled but in which values are shared, there is a culture of peer support and sharing, there is regular communication and where constructive challenge is encouraged through routine ‘post mortems’.

Video: Linda Hill: How to manage for collective creativity – http://bit.ly/1kOTpXz


m3-0136 Time

All good intentions will remain just good intentions unless resources of time and energy are invested to move towards action and implementation. Time is our most precious resource – yet so many of us don’t properly value it. However, if you don’t use it effectively, if you don’t invest enough of it, you won’t be successful.

Useful Links – Video: Collaboration in the 21st Century: bit.ly/ITCreativity; HARVARD Business Review – Being an effective one to one collaborator – http://bit.ly/1MpuNMr



Effective collaboration depends on trust – Rachel Botsman

Sharing Innovator, writes and speaks on the power of collaboration and sharing through network technologies, and on how it will transform business, consumerism and the way we live. There’s been an explosion of collaborative consumption — web-powered sharing of cars, apartments, skills. Rachel Botsman explores the currency that makes systems like Airbnb and Taskrabbit work: trust, influence, and what she calls “reputation capital.”http://bit.ly/1NMN7U0


Further Reading: Harvard Business Review: OnPoint – ‘Collaboration That Works. Selected Articles from HBR’ (Spring 2014)