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Collaboration Series (Pt 1 – A Complex Endeavor)

Collaboration is both a mystery and a miracle. It comes in all shapes, textures, and sizes. Collaboration is as unpredictable as the future and ever-changing like the wind. It lures us and dismisses without warning.

Collaboration is truly a complex endeavor. It’s complex because it involves complex beings – yes, people! Collaboration is neither static nor guaranteed.

Nevertheless, there appears to be some common principles that guide healthy instances of collaboration. These principles are in no way perfect, but they do help to form productive interaction and “co-labor” (a key to co/laboration).

In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be blogging here about some practical paradigms that govern people who collaborate well. My hope is that this blogging series will help us work better with one another.

Collaboration often becomes complex for some of the following reasons:

  • Individuals and groups go into it without clear expectations of each other’s involvement and responsibilities (e.g., Is the collaboration simply a thought collaboration? Informal networking? Investment? Partnership?)
  • Similarly, individuals and groups are not clear about what kind of collaboration they are entering (e.g., person to person, team, interdepartmental, company, network, etc.).
  • Some people have romantic views of what “working together” really looks like. Collaboration appears relatively easy from a distance. Many don’t find out how much commitment is involved until they start working with one another.

A practical to minimize unnecessary complexity is to state upfront as to what kind of collaboration you think you are entering. Getting things down on paper, even if it’s a simple one sheet agreement, can make a world of difference. Minimally, you and the person(s) you are collaborating with will have a point of reference for conversation and potential refinement of arrangement.

I know for many driven by a “relational” posture may think this is mechanical and artificial. Nevertheless, the potential awkwardness of creating a mutually agreed upon agreement far better to experience than the level of frustration that often arises when this is not considered.

There’s no doubt that collaboration is both powerful and necessary in our world. How to go about co-laboring is something we all need to help each other on. I will begin to unpack some of these thoughts in the weeks to come.

I welcome your thoughts and questions!

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Charles is the CEO & Chief Idea-Maker at Ideation, a brand innovation company that specializes in helping businesses & organizations build remarkable brands via innovative business design, organizational change architecture, brand integration, design, web, and marketing services. He is also the author of Good Idea. Now What?: How to Move Ideas to Execution, a practical book designed to help people move ideas to implementation. Charles is regularly invited to speak to leading companies and organizations on topics such as creativity, innovation, idea-making, and branding. Executive leaders from brands including Wells Fargo, Toyota, The White House, Catalyst, William Morris Endeavor, mun2, Council of Urban Professionals, Chick-fil-A, and many others have benefited from having Charles present at their key events.