In genuine collaboration, failure by any one participant is shared by many others. Participants must be willing to try many things that might fail. Mistakes and failed attempts ultimately lead to learning and become sources of new information. The rewards of collaboration are shared as well. Therefore, all participants are responsible to strive to make collaboration work.
Elements for genuinely successful collaboration:
* Open, ongoing communication is the hallmark of successful collaboration. People must be free to share information and knowledge to keep the project moving forward.
* Willing participation is equally necessary. Ideally, each participant wants to be part of the effort and believe that they will gain something valuable when the goal has been achieved.
* Brainstorming, the creative part of the process, allows everyone to imagine and suggest as many ideas as possible. The more ideas on the table, the more likely the group can move past established ways of thinking and devise innovative solutions to the problem.
* Teamwork brings together people with diverse skills and backgrounds, and keeps them working together effectively and efficiently.
* All parties in a collaborative effort must share a common purpose. One of the first steps in the collaborative process is to clarify and align the goal. As the project moves forward, everyone involved should review the goal regularly to make sure that common purpose is unchanged.
* Establishing trust is another key element. In an atmosphere without trust, participants hoard knowledge and hesitate to share their expertise with the group. Trust is achieved only when everyone works toward the same, shared goal, when all team members believe their work is valued, and when people respect one another and the process itself.
* People in a collaborative effort need a plan to achieve the goal. A project will not move ahead without a plan that clarifies the goal and describes what needs to be done, assigns roles and responsibilities, establishes a timeline, identifies necessary resources, and describes how participants will communicate and resolve conflicts.
* Mutual respect, including genuine appreciation for other’s strengths, experiences and knowledge, is essential if group members wish to share their ideas freely. Team members must encourage, listen to, and consider all of the ideas suggested by others in the group. In the act of evaluating and discussing an idea, no matter how outlandish, the group can progress to other, more feasible concepts.
* A written agreement helps the group avoid misunderstandings and a lack of clarity that might otherwise sabotage the collaborative effort. Typically, the agreement describes the reasons for the project, the goal, scope of the project, time frame, and any constraints and limitations. It also describes who is responsible for what, how to arrive at decisions, how to resolve conflicts, how to allocate resources, and how to handle issues of confidentiality and ownership. This agreement should be a living document with the capacity to change over time.
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