On Collaboration: An Introvert’s Perspective

Introverts aren't necessarily shy.I champion collaboration, which might seem odd when I am an introvert and typically work best when left to my own devices. Collaboration is not at odds with independent work or an introverted nature; collaboration is a way to refresh ideas and to gain new perspectives and insights. It’s a way to learn new things and to work toward common and sometimes shared goals.

My appreciation for collaboration finds its roots in my academic background. I always loved school. I still do, although I have no desire to obtain any more degrees. Thus, I’ve moved the classroom setting to my work and online conversations. I like to stretch my ideas. I like to find where they need improvement. I even like to discover when they are wrong, although that knowledge hurts at first. I like to make connections between what I know and what other people know. Collaboration. Growth.

My idea of collaboration isn’t quite the same as the one found in business circles. It does have applicability; meetings in which employees are challenged and encouraged to explore and develop new ideas bear a kinship with my concept of collaboration. The employees then leave those meetings and work on the goals they are meant to reach. They may work with others to reach those goals, or they make work by themselves. It depends on the scope of the work that is to be accomplished. Each person, though, has a part to play, from ensuring that deadlines are shared with everyone to communicating the overarching vision.

The danger with collaboration is that it can turn into a battle of egos or lead to nowhere, both of which I have witnessed. Collaboration of the first sort makes me want to hide under the table or to escape the room. I don’t enjoy egos clashing; nothing good comes of it. The people who are fighting rarely reach agreement, and the witnesses are left to cringe and to wait for the next remark. The second scenario bores me; I’m a person who likes to think big thoughts, but I’m also a person who craves direction and organization. Without those two things, I become frustrated. I start to doodle. I think of all the other things I could be doing besides wasting my time in a meeting. Collaboration is great, but only when it has some direction to it. Aimlessness does nothing. It produces zero results, and, for people like me, it only frustrates.

What do you think about collaboration? Is it important? Why or why not?

Photo: Melanie Allan (CC BY NC SA 2.0)


  1. This is a really interesting subject.
    About 4 weeks ago, a guy I knew in high school reached out to me, because he wanted to talk about writing books. He has a journalism degree. He has tried, but never succeeded in finishing a novel. I’ve finished 5 (6 if you count the ‘lost’ novel) and one non-fiction, in the last three years. He is really funny and suggested we collaborate on something. I said, sure, you write the first 1000 words and I’ll take the next thousand.
    I wasn’t sure if he would actually do it or not. I was finishing up a new project and when it was done, he hadn’t sent me anything, so I started Touched. I’ve written just over 37% of a new novel and he hasn’t gotten 1000 words done yet. My gut at the time told me that he might not come through and not to get my hopes up, though I do think we could have created something very funny.
    If he ever sends me the 1000, I’ll write the next bit, and assume it will be months before I see another word. That is okay, though, as I’ve got plenty of stories to tell on my own.
    I guess my point is that I’ve not invested in emotion in the project, which I think has helped me avoid getting frustrated.

    • ExtremelyAvg It’s really important to gauge the person who offers to collaborate. I think it’s good to be picky. You avoid unnecessary frustration and/or heartbreak.
      I’ve experienced the same thing: “Hey, let’s work together!” I usually wait to see if that person takes the next step to do so. It’s one thing if I’ve initiated the project; it’s another if the other person suggested it. I’ll follow up a few times, but, other than that, I move on. I don’t see the point in fruitless chases. If you have to chase the person at the beginning, you’ll be chasing forever and ever.

  2. Hey Erin,
    Collaboration, to me, has nothing to do with a meeting. I work in an industry where collaboration is an essential ingredient to project success. We work together as teams and with outside consultants to complete projects. We can simply work together and dole out assignments and we do. Those projects get completed and are ok but when we get together to share ideas and find solutions that exceed expectations; our and our client’s then we have a winner. We are always focused on doing things to improve our own process and learning along the way. The best way I can see to do that is to share ideas with other people.
    Collaboration does not mean sitting in a meeting with a bunch of folks arguing about direction or process. Collaboration itself is a process. I have a post written (rough draft) on this exact topic and I can share it with you when it is complete. It is a bit of an analogy on the relationship between two pieces of footwear and how the relationship makes or breaks the foot’s experiences. Ha! 
    Hope you are well and Happy Holidays!

    • rdopping I didn’t mean to indicate that collaboration meant sitting in a meeting. If that’s how the post came across, I didn’t express myself clearly enough. Collaboration is working together and sharing ideas. Meetings may be a part of that work.

      • Erin F. rdopping Oopsie. Maybe I should have read your post a little slower. Sorry, I did not intent to upset. I think we are on the same page. Next time, I will spend a bit more time absorbing the post before commenting.