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The Lost Instinct of Collaboration

October 12th, 2004 · No Comments

Dave Pollard writes:

The Wisdom of Teams says the preconditions for successful teamwork (something akin at least to collaboration) are (a) broad commitment to a clear, common purpose or goal, (b) a shared sense of urgency, (c) broad-based, productive participation and sense of belonging, (d) open communication and trust, and (e) complementary skills and diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. The authors also suggest that organizational leaders make lousy team-members (they can’t relinquish control and they intimidate others from playing an equal role). The best teams, in fact, are leaderless, self-managed in an egalitarian way.

Is the crushing of our instinctive tendency and desire to collaborate a conspiracy by the rich and powerful to keep us under their control? Maybe it is, but the important question is What can we do about it? Here are my thoughts:

  • Get involved in truly collaborative activities. If you have never experienced that remarkable feeling of collective accomplishment, you don’t know what you’re missing. Not only are such activities fun, they’re extraordinary learning experiences too.
  • Be vocal when a project or activity that could or should be (or is advertised as being) collaborative, is not, either because it’s set up hierarchically in the first place, or because some of the ‘players’ don’t behave in egalitarian, collaborative ways. Most people don’t recognize the critical difference between a truly collaborative team and a group, but if that’s articulated, most people, either by instinct or from experience, will recognize the difference and the superiority of true collaboration. Teach them. Show them.
  • Help the team self-select and self-manage. Oust the big egos and out the wallflowers and lurkers.
  • If your work and play don’t give you regular, real opportunities to participate in truly collaborative efforts, and if as a result you’re not really having fun in either, maybe it’s time for a change.

  • Tags: Management

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