Monday, 5 March 2012

Getting Comfortable with Collaboration

As a leader, are you truly comfortable with collaboration?

We praise and encourage collaboration for improving problem solving, increasing creativity, and spurring innovation. Done correctly, it does yield all these benefits. But it can also be scary for us as leaders. Here are three facts you have to accept, and embrace, about collaboration before it can work:
  • You won't know the answer. There's no point in collaborating on a complex problem if you know how to solve it. Be comfortable with ambiguity and accept that you aren't necessarily the expert.  The wisdom is in the room because it is a collective wisdom.
  • Roles will be unclear. Responsibilities are often fluid. Be ready for the role you play to change with each phase of the work.  That said, addressing who is responsible for what can be helpful in moving work forward.  It just doesn't need to be you, as leader, who determines who does what.
  • You will fight. If you avoid conflict, nothing will happen. Knowing how to debate tradeoffs between options means knowing how to productively argue.  This may take some practice for the whole group.  Establishing norms for processing different opinions is very helpful.  Effective processes also allow for a range of voices.

Adapted from "Eight Dangers of Collaboration" by Nilofer Merchant.

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