Collaboration, is it over rated?

Collaboration is not always helpful. People are inherently complicated if not messy and getting people to work together to solve challenging problems cannot be managed without sensitivity and humility – nuanced thoughts are required to navigate the complex systems of teams. The more one is self-aware the less chance the ego will get in the way of a break through. Is being more authentic or maybe even self-actualized a collaboration skill? And if so what happens if collaborators don’t possess this skill or worse yet haven’t a clue that they should at least try to be self aware?

The other thing is where’s the agenda coming from? If you’re collaborating to reach the goal of a customer centered solution, then that collaboration has the potential to solve for those given pain points which could lead to great innovation, big or small. But if the goal of the collaboration is dictated purely by financial models, then collaboration could backfire and fall short of solving actual customer problems.

This collaboration effort can be further undermined by recycling old patterns of behavior that may have brought success at one time, but now the circumstances have changed considerably. Perhaps this team has lost its ability to evolve authentically and is now too afraid of risk. A risk that may not necessarily be financial but rather the unraveling of a comfortable interpersonal dynamic or a familiar way of doing things. So people want to continue to collaborate but with a tight grip, now collaboration is just colleagues hustling to keep everyone informed of all the bad decisions that are being made.

I’ve also recently read that collaborative teams when dissected expose that it can actually be just one person who’s doing all the heavy lifting and the others on the team are just along for the ride. This can result in the burning out of really creative and talented individuals. You’d  probably bet that there’s little chance of sustainable innovation in this scenario and what a shame if there’s really such little collaboration actually happening all in the name of this bold, imperative called collaboration.

As with many things we tend to swing the pendulum too far in extremes, yet striking a good balance is often times the best place to be working from. Silos have gotten a bad name and for good reason, but let’s not blindly pin our hopes on what we call ‘collaboration’. Working well together requires specific interpersonal skills and if not facilitated properly can be exhausting and counter productive, especially if there’s an over reliance on just a few contributors and the team isn’t authentically engaged.