The joys of collaborating


July 21st, 2009

Collaborating has become a bit of a buzz word, and as such, over-used. And I think we often use the term ‘collaborate’ when we really mean co-ordinate or co-operate.

I really like Shawn Callahan’s use of the Cynefin framework to explain the difference between each of these. Basically it’s like this:

When you’re operating in the known/simple domain where cause and effect have a direct relationship, co-ordination is what’s needed.

When you’re operating in the knowable/complicated domain,where cause and effect are still linear, but often separated by time and/or space, co-operation is useful because it brings in people with different knowledge and skills, often experts.

And when you find yourself in the complex domain, where effects may be felt before causes are known, collaboration is useful.

Shawn writes: “Collaboration works well for complex situations because the style of working collaboratively matches the nature of the issues that complex situations pose. Complexity is unpredictable, and collaborating is adaptable; complexity is messy – it’s difficult to work out the question, let alone the answer – and collaborating involves bringing together a diversity of people and talents to improvise and test possible approaches, all learning as you go. Complexity offers unique and novel conundrums, and collaboration draws on a deep foundation of trust to that fosters creativity and delivers innovations.”

I’m fortunate to have some great collaborative projects coming up, providing us with opportunities to explore the joys of collaborating. I think some of these are:

  • mutual respect
  • explicit acknowledgement of each other’s skills and knowledge
  • building on each other’s ideas
  • a fun and collegiate approach
  • challenging and pushing each other beyond what we’d individually think is possible
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