"Collaboration." Now, there's a word that can mean different things to different people!
"Hey Joe.. can I get your take on this?"
"Sandra, can you give this the "once over" before I give it to the Board?"
"Petra, how would you change /improve this if you were in my shoes?"
"Hulin, I'd like your input before Friday"
Are these likely examples of collaboration? "Of course not." you're probably saying, because we've all been exposed to some definition of collaboration that involves shared ownership and objectives. And yet, these and other situations and conversations where there is not shared ownership and shared objective are often pointed to as collaborative behaviour - "yep.. we're collaborating... done.. let's "check the box.""
Robert Hargrove, in his book titled Mastering the Art of Creative Collaboration, describes a collaborative model as:
- designates new possibilities; shared understood goals; seeks creative, entrepreneurial results
- builds collaborative networks and new patterns of relationships and interactions; shows authenticity and vulnerability
- attitude of learning; is a specialist and a generalist; equates success with questions
- balances advocacy of views with inquiry into own and others' thinking; listens to deeply understand others
- empowers others on the job by acknowledging talents and gifts; provides an enabling environment
Overall, a pretty good example of collaborative characteristics, which coincidentally share much in common with facilitative leadership, and effective qualities for managers in this "knowledge era".
There is one thing implicit in Hargrove's exploration of collaboration, and most others as well, that bears discussion - the concept of invitation.
To designate new possibilities, build collaborative networks, have an attitude of learning, balance advocacy of views with inquiry, provide an enabling environment and engage in all of the other collaborative behaviours, other participants must be:
- invited to the "party"
- invited to the conversation
- invited to discuss objectives, outcomes, action plans
- invited to receive information that may be of value to your objectives
- invited to picture a mutually beneficial future
- invited to discuss mutually beneficial actions, and participate in difficult in trade off discussions as an EQUAL partner
- invited to hear the other's agenda, and transparently disclose yours
It's hard to collaborate unless you are.