It is only human to find collaboration natural. Collaboration is the oil that keeps us running smoothly, but too much oil can reduce effectiveness. A couple examples are the “squirrel” effect that prevents completion, or context shifting that makes completion take longer than necessary.
There are huge benefits to collaboration, but it’s easy to forget the soft dollar costs that are absorbed with the meetings, email, and continual communication online or in an open floor plan … all this culminating to excessive information overload for the individuals involved.
These concerns are addressed in The Economist’s article on The Collaboration Curse, and yes, balance is needed. Yes, space for deep thinking is needed. It strikes me that there is another dynamic at play too … cargo cult collaboration. We know that collaboration is the bomb, but how do we use it effectively?
Our human nature has the mad skill of “collaborating” all day and accomplishing zero, but there’s a flip side too. Cargo cult collaboration is where we have a process and stick to it like flies on honey. While The Economist is focusing on balance for collaboration energy, there’s also a need for understanding a variety of collaboration models to get what is needed effectively.
Having a variety of styles, methods, tools, models … however you want to classify options, helps us better
- determine what we need from the collaboration,
- increase our self-awareness as we collaborate,
- contribute relevant data, and
- enhance learning by connecting feelings and intellect.
The infographic that I created above identifies a few discussion styles that help us improve our collaboration skills. Baran & Correia have performed instructor-based research on the first three, but my experiences have found that facilitation status isn’t the important element. Sometimes we have intentionally recruit facilitators, sometimes facilitators naturally emerge, and sometimes groups prefer to self-manage. It really doesn’t make a difference as long as there are intentionality and clarity behind the approach.
This style is useful when an outcome is known to be needed and there is a whole lot of brain matter in the room to get it done. It works well when diversity in experience, backgrounds, and knowledge is present. Often in these situations, there is tension around getting organised and having a process. Everybody has an opinion and there is usually fear of not being heard. Mutual planning with this style with a chosen facilitator (and agreed upon by group) helps alleviate these stressors and ensures a process.
This style is useful when transformative thinking is desired. It may be a goal to activate intrinsic motivation or perhaps a change of mindset / behaviours are needed a cultural or value level, and in these situations, inspiration can be very effective. The bottom line with any change of mindset, value, or motivation can never occur by being told something. Humans need the stories. We need the neural coupling, mirroring, dopamine, and cortex activity that occurs in our brain when we are sharing stories.
This style is useful when multiple paradigms or perspectives are needed to be understood when analysing a situation or information. Anchoring a specific concept, this process allows individuals to connect to that concept in very different ways. This is where asking the questions within each paradigm is so important. The kick-off question to each paradigm should be grounded in real-life practices. This provides relevance and gives space to those valuable stories that help spark our behavior changes.
This style is useful when we need to interpret past events to either deepen self-awareness and/or apply to future actions. Reflection is a core for us in learning patterns and adjusting behaviours. I see types of reflection models the most frequent. We have Agile’s ORID (observation, reactions, interpretations, decisions), and a few more provided in the infographic below.
I find all of them to be the same thing presented through unique lens across different industries. The bottom line is that there is a full cycle that intentionally addresses the general what, the personal what, the why, and the what now.
Now go play!
With these various styles, I encourage you to go experiment! When you have an opportunity to collaborate next time, which style fits the situation best?
Be explicit with your colleagues and explore together. Collaborate!
Crossposted at LinkedIn