collaborating in an office

Three Skills for Better Collaboration

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At LearnBIG we recognize the power of collaboration.  Two brains are better than one they say, and if two brains are better than one, it stands to reason that even more brains will be even better.  Collaboration lets us bring multiple people’s worth of expertise to any single challenge, leading to ideas and inspiration which might otherwise never have come to light.

Collaboration is a powerful skill, but like any skill it takes time and practice to master.  Imagine the collaborative process as a funnel.  At the top there is room for every idea and everyone is encouraged to share. As the ideas pass through they mix together and recombine to create new ideas, and finally a select few pass out of the funnel to become tasks members of the team will actually undertake.

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To make sure that each collaboration session is successful, there are three skills which every person involved should practice.  First is listening.  Listening is a pretty straightforward skill and is clearly essential at every point in the collaboration process.  However, it is especially important in the last phase of the process because it is very easy for people to stop listening at this point, and instead just latch onto the ideas they want chosen.  As team members offer opinions about which ideas should be utilized going forward, listen to what they’re saying and don’t get distracted by trying to shore up your own argument or form rebuttals.  Remember the goal of collaboration is not to “win” but to create something together as a team.

This brings us nicely to our second skill of good collaboration: focus on the ideas.  One of the easiest ways for a collaborative exercise to turn sour is if members of the team think that there is favoritism or prejudice involved in deciding which ideas get chosen.  To avoid that possibility make sure to focus on the ideas being presented, regardless of who came up with them in the first place.  Just because Jimmy is awesome, and no one really likes Chip is no reason to always choose Jimmy’s ideas.  

The last skill to focus on is reflection.  This one is a bit vague, but essentially means that if you are able to listen to all the proposed ideas that make it to this stage and consider them on their own merits, then you still need to consider whether they are actually the right choice for your team.  One of the great things about collaboration is that often a new idea is generated, which many people really like in the moment, but upon further reflection it may not actually be the best choice.  In a perfect world everyone would be able to agree on exactly which ideas pass muster and which do not, but this will not be the case all the time.  That’s when team leaders need to step in and make the best decision they can.  

In the creation of a LearnBIG course, almost nothing is done in isolation.  Everything from the storyboard, to the performances, to the interactions passes through some form of the collaboration process.  This ensures that every part of the end product has been exposed to multiple different perspectives, and has incorporated the best of what everyone has to offer.  This leads to a better product, and a team who is invested in each and every step of the process.