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  • Writer's picturesabina strachan

How do you steer clear of collaboration pitfalls?

How do I find a clear route to collaborate?

There are some common blind alleys, wrong turns and pitfalls you can face on any 'collaboration journey'. This blog is all about awareness, anticipation and correcting to help you reach your destination relatively unscathed!

So before thinking about ways to steer clear of those obstacles that might get in the way of effective collaboration, it's always easier to map a route that will avoid the danger zone altogether.

Here are some top tips in response to common misconceptions:

1. Collaboration is a process, not an end it itself. It is only effective if selected in appropriate situations with everyone committed to achieving shared outcomes using this process – not as an 'add-on' layered on top of other systems. Choose what you collaborate about and with whom wisely.

2. Collaboration is not a technological platform. On their own, a cloud, shared drive or social network will not encourage people to collaborate. Some tools support collaboration, but don't get diverted by them and assume that they will put you on the right path.

3. Collaboration is not about your physical environment. Like technological tools, open plan places to work or learn and break out zones are not magic wands that will create effective collaborative projects. A collaborative culture is about creating time to collaborate and recognising and rewarding collective achievement.

4. Collaboration is not the same as co-production. Co-production involves direct relationships between providers/professionals and users to create or improve products or services. Users are involved throughout, from conception to delivery. Organisations may collaborate to improve a product or service, but the relationship with the user is generally indirect. Co-production can be described as a form of collaborative. Effective collaboration can enable co-production.

5. Collaboration is about human relationships. Avoid stripping it down to following steps in a process or utilising specific tools. The keys to unlocking the door to effective collaboration are trust and respect, diversity of thought, letting go of control, and being open to influence.

6. Collaboration is about communication. Effective communication for collaboration is not about consultation or the accessibility of information. It is about being open and transparent, listening to others, the ability to give and receive feedback, being inclusive, managing conflict, and sharing knowledge and ideas in a safe environment.

7. Collaboration need not strip away individual motivation and achievement. You can and will achieve more as a 'collaborative individual' who contributes effectively to collective outcomes. If this is recognised and rewarded people will respond and be open to a different way of working.

8. Collaboration is a collective responsibility. One person, team or department is not going to be able to 'break down silos' for an entire group or organisation without cross-party buy-in to working in a collaborative way. A whole-group approach is needed to embed change.

9. Collaboration will not automatically give you the best results. There are tools and processes that can be used to facilitate collaboration. However, if these are used with groups unfamiliar with the methods or who do not have diverse experiences or perspectives, the outcomes generated may not meet the objectives of the process. Diversity is a key consideration when embarking on collaboration.

10. Collaboration is hard – so cooperation is a good place to start. There is no 'leader' in a collaboration, it's tough trying to collaborate or facilitate collaboration where groups might struggle with working in that way, and the commitment and resources required should not be underestimated. You can lead a group in more effective cooperation however, and this can be a suitable approach to take to achieve many desired outcomes.

When should you seek to cooperate better? When is collaboration the best approach? The next blog is all about this dilemma.

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