In work and at play, there’s joy and a great deal of learning to be derived from collaborations. Healthy collaborations are those that affirm lively dialogue and a focus on integrating diverse viewpoints into an outcome of which everyone can feel proud. The unfortunate truth is that while many collaborations may begin with optimism, all too many end in dazzling frustration. Here are some ways to help make the process of collaboration as fun and productive as it can be, so you start off on the right foot and end with a sense of flight.
- Enroll collaborators with distinct areas of expertise
The best collaborations bring together people whose areas of expertise have little or no overlaps. In addition to eliminating competitiveness, adopting this principle from the get-go helps put together a lean yet diverse team that takes nothing for granted.
- Go lean and minimal
You know what they say about too many cooks. Try to keep the group as small as possible. Eliminating redundancy helps foster engaging, lively conversations (because conversations are what make collabs fab!) and a better integration of ideas towards the desired outcome.
- Respect and trust one another
Put in place practices that ensure open communication, transparency and respect at all times so that creative differences can be fodder for growth and exploration instead of discord. Open communication is key! Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, but do so in a manner that encourages discussion and dialogue.
- Focus on integrating ideas
The spirit of collaboration calls for collaborators to focus not on coming up with “winning” ideas individually, instead building on each other’s diverse views, skills and backgrounds to run wild – so to speak – in an entirely new, cross-disciplinary space. Embrace diverse opinions, even if they’re diametrically opposite to what you had in mind. It isn’t easy (or pleasant) to have your ideas or assumptions challenged but that’s where all the learning and innovation happens.
- Set clear roles
Oh, the mayhem that ensues when clear roles aren’t outlined. While all may seem lively and well in the beginning, unclear roles can snowball into larger issues that interfere with workflow or obscure expectations. From day one, the best practice is to set clear roles, expectations and responsibilities for each member of the creative collaboration.
- Don’t water down ideas
Picture this: collaborator one believes strongly in option A, while collaborator two believes in option B. Instead of finding the “middle ground” between A and B, do the exercise of finding the yet obscured option C that pushes both ideas to the next level. It isn’t easy, but it definitely is possible.
- Regard “good ideas” with caution
Good ideas that come too early in the game can constrain creativity. It’s much easier to go along with a good idea than to push harder and explore the different directions that bad ideas take us. Be wary of defending good ideas too strongly in the early stages of a collaboration as well. While a good idea should be considered, explore the full range of expertise by prodding at other ideas too.
- Document EVERYTHING
Keep record of everything. Good ideas that turned out to be dead-ends. Ideas that stunk. Ideas with potential that required more time/expertise/resources. Processes that worked, and those that bombed. Delays. Meeting notes. What you ate for lunch. Okay, maybe not the last one, but you get the gist. You’ll never know when you can take the information you have and turn it into gold. You may have been sitting on the winning idea, but you’d have no way of putting it together if you didn’t document it.