Collaboration is one of humankind’s primal dynamics, but formal collaboration inside today’s organizations seldom works. Companies suffer when colleagues can’t get together effectively to develop smart solutions to problems. Leaders might pay lip service to the idea of collaboration, yet few know how to bring it about.
How do you advance ideas in a collaborative way and then communicate them throughout your company? Collaboration expert Gretchen Anderson explains in practical terms how collaboration works, what it can accomplish, how to organize collaborative teams and which common collaboration pitfalls to avoid, showing us how to generate ideas with others while gaining buy-in from all levels of your organization.
In this talk at Joint Futures, Gretchen Anderson shares the secrets of successful collaboration that can increase the inclusivity of teams and take some of the struggle out of working together, including a framework to develop ideas into hypotheses to be tested and refined to:
- Avoid common pitfalls in the collaboration process
- Align communication approaches to ensure that collaboration is effective and inclusive
- Structure events or meetings for different types of collaboration depending on the people involved
- Practice giving and receiving critiques to foster inclusion without resorting to consensus-based decisions
Secrets of Successful Collaboration
Mastering Collaboration is one of the books in the recommended reading for the Design Strategist Multiplier Program I’m running at SAP SuccessFactors, so I cannot speak highly enough of it, and it really resonates with some of my own research on Collaborative/Distributed Design Environments in three ways:
- Make the Space: we need an environment that allows teams to create shared understanding and context, but we also need pauses to introspect, reflect and deep dive into problems. So we need to strike a balance between working collaborative and working alone. I also resonates a lot with some of her opinions about how we don’t put enough emphasis asynchronous communication: during the time I worked from China, I often felt excluded from decision making processes since the stakeholders in the other side of the ocean tended to prefer face-to-face/video conferencing meetings to decide.
- Set Clear, Urgent Objectives: very easy prompt to encourage us to collaborate should be “what would happen if we do nothing?” What kind of outcomes we need to help set up for themselves that will motivates team to collaborate? Joshua Seiden has spoken a lot about outcomes over outputs, so it’s worth checking out.
- Tell the Story: when we are facing hard times to get our concepts along, instead of blaming others for not “getting”, we should ask ourselves “what did I do wrong?” You’ve probably heard before how humans are “hardwired for stories”, but is enough evidence out how memory works that shows that storytelling is not just an engaging way to convey information, it is actually also the way memories are built.
About Gretchen Anderson
Gretchen Anderson runs her own practice with clients to develop product strategy and improve team collaboration skills. She is the author of, Mastering Collaboration from O’Reilly Media. Gretchen spent the first part of her career in design consulting for firms like frog design, Cooper, and LUNAR.
Recently, she was Head of Design at PG&E, California’s largest energy company, she has led the design of the hardware and software of a next-generation surgical system, and served as VP of Product at GreatSchools.org. Gretchen is a Bay Area native who left only long enough to get a bachelor’s degree from Harvard in History & Literature