5 mins read

Collaboration – its a PEOPLE thing

Its messy but worth it

This is a blog created to accompany a recent webinar run for Doncaster Chamber, who are currently spinning plates working hard to help their members. This blog focus on the ‘skills/attributes’ and ways of BEing which are needed to:

“help collaboration happen…”

Individually we possess only one or maybe two pieces of the puzzle. Collaboration is about creating a space where people to bring openly all these pieces (knowledge and know how etc) into the room -be that virtual or otherwise.


Definition of Collaboration

A person wiser than me described collaboration as:


Just in case you missed the obvious, that’s:

  • See different aspects of a problem – we each see/perceive things individually
  • Constructively explore differences – yes we don’t fall out when we disagree, we seek to understand
  • Go beyond our vision – because our vision is limited by our experiences

Easy enough YES?….well maybe not so simple. To foster Collaboration managers and their teams need to…


“create space to build mutual trust, vulnerability, shared values, shared project design and idea generation…”

Without this, ‘Collaboration’ is just a trending/trendy word of the time, like a fashion statement of our current culture…

Below are some thoughts regarding what employers and employees may do to foster collaboration, additionally beneath each table is an action employees can take right now to begin the journey…

Be Open

To paraphrase Peter Senge (Guru of ‘Learning Organisations’) –


Don’t ever assume you are right, you merely have a view (as do others).


BE Thoughtful

This is about the personal touch –


In your communication, personalise the interaction – remember stuff about people and use this in crafting communication ….


BE Considerate

Think what can you do to aid others –


Then act upon these…


BE Long-Term

What do you really know about your team members –


Is there a hidden skill that can serve the project team.


BE Agile

Get used to being out of balance and having to regain it –


I did and now I know how it feels to loose balance and change direction without this being my choice (gravity owns me).


BE Objective

Google emotion wheel/words, the list is bigger than you think


Manage how you respond… its a tricky one but it will serve you well.


How do we Foster this online?

Here are some ideas that managers may like to encourage:


  1. Create virtual water cooler moments – Such as video-call coffee breaks and buddy lunch’s where you talk beyond projects
  2. Set clear expectations – for peoples role, project and meetings. With clarity comes focus and a sense of knowing
  3. Have a purpose for each communication channel – text, call, e mail, why are you using them and don’t muddy the waters
  4. Create a knowledge-sharing space – e.g. a wiki, when people learn stuff within a project get it shared.


Try this with your team – Collaboration Activity

Below is a problem known as the ‘slow elevator’ problem. Having a go at the activity with your team as it’s will help illustrate the value of collaboration and differences. Read the text in the image below, then write your solution before going any further…


Be honest, was this your solution?

If so, thats ok. However if this was the solution everyone in the team gave, then we may have something to worry about. Group think may have gone to far. To much similarity may exist within your team or the voice of difference may have fallen dormant for fear of ‘being seen as different’. Why is this a potential issue –


With collaboration, things may have gone more like this…


The model above illustrates how ‘rethinking the assumptions’ can lead to a reframing of the problem and with it a broader set of solutions. This is one of the many benefits of true collaboration and valuing ‘diversity of thought’.

I nicked this activity from a good friend of mine Dr Jane Booth (Opus 29 Consulting) who uses this to illustrated the pitfalls of falling in love with the solution…. Its based on an article from the HBR by Thomas Wendell-Wedellsborg (quality name). Worth a read.


In closing

This is just one 3rd of the challenge. For collaboration to really work 3 things need to be aligned:


  1. People – who they are individually and together
  2. Processes – how they work together, knowing the ‘way’
  3. Platforms – the mediums through which they communicate

Get the people bit wrong and its just a buzz word and needless noise, get this right and ideas/solutions will improve as will communication and workflow.


Kurt Ewald Lindley – collaboration is a people thing

P.S. Collaboration and Covid19 – https://euvsvirus.org/challenges/#health