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The Fine Line Between By-Product & Goal in Collaboration

Human beings are very complex by nature. There are multiple, ever-changing variables that determine whether or not two individuals will end up collaborating in an endeavor. Variables including timing, level of motivation, environment of engagement, assessment of benefit, priority of purposed project, personality, trust, etc. all play a role in determining mutual buy-in.

It’s no wonder why it takes so much time to build a collaborative effort. Many akin it to entering a dating relationship. It takes time to build meaningful trust. Although not all collaborative engagements are relational in nature, most long-lasting ones tend to be rooted in growing relationships.

Strong collaborative relationships recognize that there’s a fine line between the goal of working together and the by-product of working together. Switching these two often lead to strained relationships and less than authentic engagement. Let me explain.

The goal of a collaborative endeavor should be relationship building. The goal should not be transactional in nature. In other words, the goal of the collaborating shouldn’t be to simply exchange money or goods from one another. If this is the case, the relationship will be limited to how many transactions the two parties are willing to engage.

If the goal of the engagement is relationship, this will afford more likelihood of enduring connection that will survive beyond a transaction. The transactions that take place between the two parties ought to be the by-product of an enduring relationship. This will allow for greater opportunities for on-going, mutual benefit.

I’m sure that you’ve experienced people approaching you to “collaborate” when in actuality, they just want a transaction from you (e.g., a specific donation, resource, or investment). This kind of relationship is unilateral and limited in nature. I’m usually not moved too much to engage in this matter unless it’s an emergency.

For me, it’s not just about “cutting to the chase” but also building a relationship that makes the transactions a natural by-product of friendship or partnership.

If you’re going to collaborate, why not take the time to make it last?

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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.