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)