The purpose of this activity is to identify, articulate, and discuss potential strategies to improve the collaborative process among participating organizations.
Those involved in collaborative work employ a variety of methods to make their work as successful as possible. There are many strategies that professionals employ to improve collaborative working conditions.
1) Team Building
How do you build a team? What are the best practices involved in bringing together a potentially diverse group of individuals? How is it possible to make them feel part of a shared project? In part, building a team has to do with acknowledging the individual contributions of each player. For example:
Whenever we collaborate, it is extremely important to understand the source of identity of somebody who’s collaborating with us. You know, what the roots of the person’s identity are. And have that flourish rather than have that … challenged. I think what that looks like in practice is ongoing recognition of what the person has to contribute and ongoing recognition of how the person is illuminating the problem. That is very, very helpful, particularly in diverse groups.
2) Negotiation and Compromise
In the midst of a collaboration, there may be problems that are easily solved. If communication isn’t going well, for example, strategies for improving methods (weekly meetings, clear note-taking) can be identified and agreed upon. Sometimes, however, larger changes, involving negotiation and potential compromise, are necessary to improve the process:
We have agreed to sit down and just step back for half a day over the next couple of months and literally talk about the state of the partnership. What’s the actual value that we are looking for from this partnership, and does that match the value that they are looking to add in the partnership? I would imagine that we are going to discover that we have some expectation mismatches as it relates to [the] structural dimensions of our relationship. And I think it would be good to get that out on the table.
3) External Support and Advice
Sometimes, those in the midst of a partnership may no longer be able to be objective and may be so immersed in the work that they lose sight of the larger picture or are unable to see alternative perspectives. At times like these, it becomes helpful to seek external advice. Here are two examples:
-We needed [an outside expert] to say, “This is how it works. They’ll say one thing, but this is what they really mean.” So, we needed that translator, someone who can basically live in both cultures and go back and forth.
-I even asked another one of my colleagues to join us on the phone call so that she could check me. And I said to her, “Is he saying something different than he said last time or am I mishearing it?” And she said to me, “I think it’s a little bit of both,” which was a good check for me to make sure that I wasn’t just listening in a hopeful way with my own biases or that kind of thing.
Consider your own collaborative work.
-Have you ever used any of the above strategies?
-If so, would you consider your efforts successful? Why or why not?
-What are some additional strategies that you have used to improve your collaborative work? Would you recommend these strategies to others? Why or why not?