Making Collaboration Real
Ask a random person on the street, and they'll support collaboration. Of course it's a good idea when people get together to work on something, solve a problem, help each other out. I'll go out on a limb and suggest that you, reading this post, agree that collaboration is a good thing.
So why doesn't it happen more? Why are we seemingly in a sea of individuals, or departments, or organizations, who are each trying to get things done and only grudgingly coming to meetings that involve other people? One reason is how bad we are at running meetings, but their are larger dynamics at play here. Our culture likes competition and it likes individuals. Dan Oestreich wrote a great post about competition, and here is the money quote:
The world isn't going to be saved simply by the most powerful individuals or their best ideas, but by the power and ideas that we have found together.
I think we value the brilliance of the individual too much, and we discount the power of getting people together to come up with solutions together. We view it as a waste of time, or too hard. We get frustrated when the conversation goes in circles. Why do I have to be at this meeting? I could be back at my desk getting "real work" done. As I said, bad meetings don't help anyone. But sometimes I think it's our own lack of skill in working together to solve problems that gets in the way. Think about whether you need to work on your ability to come into a group discussion WITHOUT the answer and actually work the conversation to the point where new solutions are jointly developed. Try it out more. Learn what it takes to do it well.