Before we can dive into defining ‘real’ collaboration we need to clarify the type of collaboration we are referring to, which is collaboration for creative problem solving. In these collaborations there is a diverse group of participants who are not just working together but harnessing the collective intelligence of the group to produce innovative ideas, solutions and actions.
Real collaboration results from a delicate balance between too little and too much control. It works best when there is a high level of creativity in the group, a common goal, a sense of urgency and a certain amount of friction in the group. However, even with these components collaboration will fail if the behaviours that result from the pressure and tension are not moderated appropriately. The recipe for collaboration has many ingredients including design, leadership and environment.
Successful collaboration is often seen in times of crisis, when the common goal of a group is survival. For example, the current mining disaster in Chile: 33 miners trapped underground for 17 days before being discovered managed to survive on 48 hours worth of rations. This feat itself could only have been made possible through significant collaborative effort among the trapped miners. All 33 were dedicated to a common goal, the sense of urgency profound, and any self serving behaviours moderated for the benefit of their collective survival.<