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  • Writer's picturesabina strachan

Building foundations for effective collaboration – cooperation skills

Cartoon: person thinking “Which skills do I need to dial up?” next to a dial with ‘cooperation’ on one side and ‘collaboration’ on the other

Cooperation is not the same as collaboration, but working cooperatively can help make for an easier transition to working collaboratively. One place to start when thinking about taking that step is transferable skills – What are the skills you need for effective cooperation? And how do you strengthen them to collaborate?

Going back to basics

Cooperation is where two or more people support one another’s goals by sharing information or resources. Cooperation is an elementary social process. If the goal is shared the cooperators are also coordinating. Cooperation is an essential ingredient of good teamwork.

Working cooperatively suits a broad range of contexts. Whereas collaboration is a good approach when working on complex problems, where diverse perspectives are particularly valuable, and solutions need to be innovative. A fundamental difference is that there is a leader in cooperative relationships, there is not in collaborative ones.

What type of cooperation helps with collaboration?

There are different kinds of cooperation. The type most relevant as a stepping stone to collaboration is 1. where the goal is shared by the group, 2. individuals have different roles and contribute a diverse range of skills and experience to achieving that goal, and 3. each individual has a high degree of creative freedom and power to make decisions.

Cooperating to deliver a complex problem in a project setting might translate more readily to collaborating to achieve a specific outcome than when cooperation principally focuses on achieving more straightforward everyday tasks.

Which cooperative skills will help us collaborate?

At the heart of cooperation and collaboration is the ability to work effectively with other people. Naturally communication is central to that. We need to listen openly and converse, share information and ask for feedback. Good communication is essential for effective collaboration.

Empathy, trust and mutual respect are three pillars of building effective relationships that will enable effective cooperation and collaboration. Effective networking, sharing resources and helping others will also help cooperation develop into collaboration organically as you discover shared outcomes and the need for diverse perspectives and new solutions.

In a cooperative relationship you need to be able to resolve differences through compromise or agreement. It is also necessary to manage conflict in collaborative relationships as challenge (rather than compromise) is an important principle of the approach that needs diverse perspectives to find innovative solutions.

Being willing to move from a position, adapt to new situations, improvise, approach issues laterally to solve problems and shift strategies to meet different kinds of challenges are important skills for effective cooperation and collaboration.

5. Proactivity.

‘Good cooperators are ready cooperators’ – they are aware of others’ needs, anticipate, inquire and anticipate rather than rely on being reactive. Good collaborators need a similar attitude and are driven by their strong belief in the shared outcome.

Do you think you could benefit from personal, organisational or facilitative support for collaboration? Get in touch with glu.

The next blog forms the first of a series which takes imagined scenarios of an individual or group struggling to collaborate, identifies the key issues, and works through how they overcame them. It will pull together strands on leadership, culture, mindset and skills – principles covered by glu’s first 20 blog posts – and place them firmly in relatable contexts.

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