Graphic: Optimizing Collaboration

I work with organizations who are constantly asking what it means to work together and who are braving new frontiers when it comes to doing it better.

From them I have learned that collaboration may be easy to talk about but it is often difficult to do in practice (and even harder to measure). I've witnessed that one of the most challenging requirements for teamwork is keeping everyone engaged.

Interestingly, researchers have unveiled a paradox here: the best collaborative efforts are the result of BOTH creating safe space for everyone to contribute equally AND intentionally supporting those who add the most value.

The graphic above is meant to describe how these aims might best be balanced using the process of design thinking as a framework. This framework focuses collaborative work into distinct stages of developing solutions to problems.

In general, I believe that groups are ideal for generating ideas, including those related to making improvements, but day-to-day decision making may be best left to those most able to execute on them.

The time that groups spend together should be used to gain clarity, develop shared understanding, and discuss strategies. This alone requires a lot of intention and effort. In order to prevent disengagement, I think the only decisions that should be made at the group level are the big picture ones that absolutely require full ownership.

My clients have also taught me that using visuals is a game changer for any collaborative effort. They not only help create space that is both safe and supportive of these processes in real time, they also document them so that groups can maintain momentum even as they inevitably diverge.