The Collaborative Conundrum
It seems like these days, everyone wants to collaborate. The problem with collaboration is that people often mistake it to mean that you are willing to work with them for free. They think that collaboration means you are going to set your ambitions aside in order to help them achieve their goal. The truth about collaboration is that it is more difficult to pull off than people think.
I have collaborated quite a bit over the last few years. Some of those collaborations have been quite fruit-full and others, not-so-much. I have, over time, compiled a list of common collaboration mistakes and thought I would share them with you. They were initially published as part of another article I wrote on collaboration but I thought they were worthy of their own post.Got any crazy collaboration stories? Leave them in the comments below.
Avoid These 9 Common Collaboration Mistakes:
Before you begin your next collaborative project make sure you keep away from these major mistakes.
All parties need to be on the same page in order for effective collaboration to take place. You can use a note sharing app like Evernote or google docs to share ideas and work through the planning stages together. Whether you use software, note sharing or paper airplanes to stay connected you must have some established form of communication in order to collaborate effectively.
2. Failing to plan:
Collaboration is fun when it is spontaneous and you just happen to stumble across it but planning a meeting at least a week ahead allows people to better fit it into their schedule. Considering participation is key to collaboration, giving people a real opportunity to participate is vital to doing it right.
3. Selfish Collaborators:
You must be willing to let people show you how they can contribute. It is impossible to discover anyone’s hidden (or not so hidden) talents if you don’t provide an environment for them to freely express and explore their creative faculties. Collaboration should not be sidestepped due to ideological interjections. People need to be free to explore the collaboration in whatever method makes them most creative. Judging books by their cover is a good way to miss out on a great collaboration experience. Do not let any insecurities prevent you from opening doors in life wherever you go. You never know who might be standing behind it.
4. Loud Mouths:
You know who you are. I am not talking about the guy in the corner who knows what he is talking about and interjects with useful contributions. I am talking about the ignorant tweedleberry who just likes hearing the sound of his own voice in a room with more than just himself sitting in it. Please know what you are talking about or don’t talk about it. Nothing will strip you of your credibility faster than bloviating on a subject on which you have only a marginal understanding. Shut your mouth, take a few notes and go Google that shit. Then maybe next time you can contribute something meaningful to the conversation instead of wasting everyone’s time.
5. Participation Trophies:
If you say you are going to do something or be somewhere or get something done, then do it. It is that simple. Do not expect the other collaborators to cover your quota. You must be engaged and willing to deliver on your word. You do not get credit just for showing up!
6. Keeping Quiet:
If something is bothering you then speak up. How is anyone supposed to fix anything if they all think its working fine. Leadership means speaking up. You might be surprised at who stands with you. This doesn’t mean you throw a creative coup, just that in order for this to be a meaningful collaboration you have to feel satisfied as well. In order to make sure this happens please refer back to miscue number one!
7. Too Much Structure:
It is important to guide the collaboration but not necessarily to control it. Too much of an effort to control the collaboration can result in an unhappy group. Also, be flexible with how people are compensated/rewarded for their efforts. Some people might need to make money from their collaborations and others might just be looking to pad a resume, gain a little experience or build some new relationships.
8. Political Posturing:
I am not talking about Washington DC politics. I am talking about back office, highschool clique style politics. You are not the only person with good ideas and there are often many solutions to every problem. Just because the collaboration is not taking place around your personal idea does not mean you get to run away from the table. You can’t run off to mommy every time someone gives you some harsh criticism. Learn to delegate and step back once in a while. One of the hardest lessons for a leader to learn is that in order to lead you must first know how to follow.
This is the worst of all of them and is the only one that involves malicious behavior. Do not take advantage of someone under the pretext of collaboration. Do not steal an idea from your fellow collaborator only to pass it off as your own. Do not waste the labors of others with tedious repetition or futile propositions. You are hated amongst all of us in the creative world who would share our trust and knowledge with only the expectation of reciprocation, only to be slapped in the face by a sneaky saboteur. This is not cool and might even call for public humiliation. Maybe a titty twister in times square or an indian burn by Chuck Norris. Either way, it should hurt because you make it infinitely more difficult for the rest of us to do our thing.
Did I Miss Anything?
I am sure there are a number of other collaboration mistakes being made on a regular basis. Feel free to let me know what I missed in the comments section below.