Defining collaboration

Many companies are increasing the amount of collaboration that they take part in. Both inter-company and intra-company collaboration are on the rise, and the benefits are often touted far and wide. But what do we mean by collaboration? What is it that we do, that results in a collaborative process?

Collaboration is about multiple parties working together towards a mutually beneficial outcome, where each contribute and receive benefits in return. It is this idea of providing mutual benefit to all involved that defines the collaborative process. The following steps below may give you some ideas to use in achieving a successful collaboration of your own:

  1. Research, meet and understand
    Start by researching your soon-to-be collaborators. Gain an insight into how they work, and what they are most likely to help with. Background research is a vital aspect of so many areas of business, so go in prepared. Then, arrange to meet. Try to see each party face to face – in the technologically abundant environment in which we do business, there is a lot to be said for old fashioned face time. The first meeting will allow you to approach the collaboration with an understanding of each party.
  2. Embrace the concept
    Collaboration gives mutual benefit. We have already said that this defines the process, but it is worth analysing how to achieve this. Mutual benefit should mean that your group, the entire collaborative force, works towards the greater good. This egalitarian approach requires self-interest to be removed from the picture in order to create an environment in which everyone will strive to achieve this shared goal.
  3. Organisation
    A vital next step is organisation. Collaboration can be a by-word for “potential chaos” with different departments from different companies coming together. Plan ahead and work out how to compromise when needed. Some lee-way is going to be inevitable in the search of your shared goal, and for each business to work effectively together, recognition of this is essential.
  4. Meet again, meet often
    Track progress through regular meetings amongst your own team, and your collaborators. Where there are different streams to coordinate, you should create an environment in which information on progress is easily accessible and shared amongst all parties.
  5. Involvement
    Think “two heads are better than one.” In addition to your collaborative partners, benefits may lie in getting input from within your own organisation. Open the floor up to ideas from juniors to executive level management, and you’ll be collaborating both inside and out.
  6. Lay the foundations
    A successful collaboration may mean that you have laid firm foundations for the future with yourself and your fellow collaborators. Many businesses have succeeded from such partnerships, and you may too.
  7. Take stock of what you have achieved
    At the end of the collaboration process, it is also important to consider what has been achieved. The universal goal has been met thanks to a coordinated process from different teams and may be one which provides many more – but it has fundamentally been down to the consideration that has been given to each party, what they can offer and how they will work with each other to contribute to, and achieve, the shared goal.

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