The definition goes: “Collaboration is a working practice whereby individuals work together to a common purpose to achieve business benefit”, blah-blah-blah. In a nutshell, yes, that’s precisely what collaboration is all about. However, it is much more than that, really. Collaboration is also an eye-opener, a brain-developer, an idea-creator, a mind-broadener, a friend-maker and a trust-builder. Oh yes, all of those things too! And even more… it is a quality-controller and a performance-improver. So… want to collaborate efficiently? Let’s do it!
- Firstly, with any collaborative project, a mutually beneficial relationship is key. When you are working with someone in order to get from point A to point B, where B is a nice and comfortable place with juicy profits, there have to be enough profits for all the parties included. When an individual or a business agree to work with another individual or a business, there has to be something in it for them. So simple, right? Well, how is it possible that so many times the basic and one of the most important principles of collaboration is forgotten? You will say it’s ‘common sense’ and I will agree with you. However, it is unbelievable how often we may be approached by a business or an individual interested in ‘collaboration’ and when we show an interest, immediately what we hear is a sales pitch. Or, we may be asked for a favor. Or, there is a ‘really cool’ project, but for some reason we are expected to get nothing in the end and work for free. For the enjoyment of it, I believe? What can be nicer than helping somebody else make money, while spending your time doing all the work for nothing? And what about “Money for nothing, chicks for free?” Hmmm… So back to the basics: collaboration is about doing some sort of work TOGETHER in order to BENEFIT from it, one way or another.
- Collaboration is also about compromise. Don’t be too greedy and don’t tell people what to do. Collaboration means ‘partnership’, not ‘employment’. ‘Asking’ is one thing and ‘telling’ is another. Yes, there will be a project manager or someone in charge of the whole thing, but the ‘together’ factor is always there, so not getting too bossy is extremely important. Bouncing ideas, suggesting the next move, brainstorming and developing new strategies = productivity and great results. Bossing around, giving orders and feeling important = a bad I-think-I-am-the-boss person and bad results. Or, which is even worse, no results whatsoever and a spoilt relationship – nobody enters a collaboration expecting that sort of thing.
- Communication (as always! I can’t emphasize it enough!) is one of the factors that in itself is fundamental to ANY relationship. If there is more than one person involved in anything – communication is essential. Communicate well with the people you are working with. Where there is good communication, there is understanding. And understanding is vital. Remember that you all want the same thing, which is to succeed in whatever you are doing together. Therefore, articulating concerns, worries and threats, discussing ideas and thoughts and letting the other party know your opinion is crucial for any collaboration.
- Finding common grounds with people you are working with is extremely important. It brings you closer, helps you understand each other better and even build trust. I am not talking about faking common interests here, I am talking about genuinely finding things in common, no matter how small they can be. It also makes working together far easier! Sometimes having a silly good laugh may refresh the most difficult situation and recharge your batteries, so if you share a sense of humor with people you are working with, it will definitely be a very positive collaboration. Even if the whole project fails (which it won’t!!). Besides, how often do colleagues or people you work with turn into friends?
- Reliability is something we expect from others but may sometimes forget about ourselves. Entering a collaboration and not being able to cope with the workload is annoying for everyone, including the person who is not coping or keeps forgetting things. When we make mistakes and our own businesses suffer, it’s bad. When we make mistakes and other people and their businesses suffer, it’s far worse. When you are trying to build something together with other people, it’s not only your reputation and prosperity that are put on the line, but theirs as well. Sometimes they may even be affected far greater than yourself, so working hard and doing your best should be a priority. If we expect it from others, we must be able to deliver ourselves.
For me personally, working with other people is extremely exciting. I always learn a lot and enjoy the process far more than doing something on my own. Besides, any sort of collaboration or partnership seems to be pushing me a bit further out of my comfort zone, proves to be challenging and actually makes me be more productive and increases my overall performance, no matter what I do – run a magazine, do photography or plan a new business. So, if you haven’t done it yet, go for it, but do it right, make sure that you get the right people involved… and believe in success!