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Is Collaboration Worth it?

With more and more talk around the benefits of collaboration and how to get more out of collaborative efforts, it begs the question is collaboration worth it?

Achieving a productive collaborative culture takes time, effort and well, overall it can be a pretty daunting task. We constantly hear that collaboration brings about better ideas, increases innovation, and more productivity. However, because it can be so difficult, is it all worth it?

Melanie Turek attempts to tackle this in her post Is Collaboration Really the Holy Grail? She plays with the idea that a little bit of solitude may actually lead to better productivity and innovation. Turek states that “what drives the most creative thought and greatest productivity is leaving people alone to work, an then allowing them to get together with colleagues as needed, and when they’re ready, to share ideas and test theories.” I believe that she has a point.

We tend to think that if we schedule collaborative brainstorming sessions we will automatically produce our best work. While this can and does work, I know that some of my best ideas come to me during the oddest moments (running at the gym, zoning out at night watching a TV show, or when I’m thinking about sometime completely different). This isn’t to say that an initial session is a bad thing or a waste of time, however it’s tough to force ideas. Fear of rejection, or looking dumb to peers can deter people from sharing their best work. So how can you overcome this and achieve productive collaboration?

Turek believes that collaboration should only be held once collaborators are ready. She points out that “Internet-based and social media technologies are perfect for this, since they are both asynchronous and real-time, and because the screen itself appears to act as a barrier to fear; people are willing to state their own conflicting opinions when they are not actually face to face with their opponents.” Things like Facebook groups, give people the ability to develop and share ideas at their own pace. Because you are not face to face with others, there is less fear of rejection while including the benefit of having a room full of others to help troubleshoot or improve upon possible ideas.

So yes, collaboration is worth it. We can’t underestimate the importance of having other individuals to bounce ideas off and listen to their opinions. Oftentimes the best ideas are those that are expanded upon during these collaboration sessions. However, it’s important to give individuals the freedom to work alone, and let them connect with colleagues as needed. This gives the best of both worlds: it allows individuals to work at their own pace while also having a group to help offer possible improvements. Next time you run into someone who believes that collaboration is a waste of time, ask them why. It may be because they are trying to force it.

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