Monday, March 26, 2007

Pinpointing Behavour that Blocks Collaboration

We've all see it or experienced it - sarcasm, negative / destructive humour, belittling, and a whole host of things people do, for any number of reasons, to block collaboration.

Collaboration, which in many respects amounts to co-creation, requires a trusting environment where people involved feel free to generate and share ideas, give each other useful feedback, and make decisions that move towards shared outcomes. The early stages of the collaborative process involve a certain degree of personal vulnerability, when the people involved are generating, tabling and discussing "half baked" ideas. I've seen many people disengage in meetings and workshops when their contributions are criticized, or using destructive humour, ridiculed without ever exploring the possibilities inherent in those ideas.

Robert Hargrove wrote a very useful and readable exploration of collaboration in Mastering the Art of Creative Collaboration. On Page 67 he maps out the behavioural/attitudinal differences between what he calls the "collaborative model" (appreciative, active listening and learning, balancing advocacy with inquiry, empowering) and the "self-oriented" model (pursues own agenda, seeks to win and control others, a "know-it-all").

This I find is very closely linked to relationship intelligence and facilitative leadership.

So, besides the obvious, how do you know when you are faced with someone who is engaging in very uncollaborative behaviours? I think Bob Sutton's Blog entry on Rob Cross on Energizers vs. De-energizers has it nicely pegged - basically, ask yourself how you feel after the interaction. It could also be a good question to ask of ourselves as well.

Bob Sutton has also explored the topic of collaboration in the context of Building the Civilized Workplace, and his somewhat "pithy" book The No Asshole Rule. Check out his short video lesson at

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