Designing Collaborations

There are several key components that when combined in the proper measure can result in successful collaborations.  Creating the framework for the collaboration is one such factor.

Harnessing the creativity of a group requires not only the usual considerations of timing, data requirements, and the resources needed but also careful ‘engineering’ of behaviors and mindset.  This apparent contradiction of soft skills with the recognized hard skill association of engineering allows you to consider the process of organizing behavior in order to maximize creative mindset and minimize those that destroy collaboration.

Soft stuff is the glue that holds the hard stuff together. Knowing who should contribute to the collaboration and their necessary skill sets in addition to being prepared to mitigate negative behavioral tendencies (Divas, Pontificators and the like) are important considerations on an individual level.  For example, when a particular personality needs ‘management’, the ideal approach is 3 pronged:

1. Arrange a pre-meeting one on one with the individual and warn them that they may encounter topics or opinions that could cause an emotional/negative reaction.

2. Recognize their abilities/skills etc. and let them know their inputs are valuable to the group achieving their goal.

3. Find a solution that works for the individual and the needs of the group to prevent potentially destructive situations.

Let us say for example you have a member of your group that given his level of expertise and experience believes he/she should not be limited to the one time 10 minute speaking limit that has been set for meeting participants.  The result of the 3 pronged approach above could potentially be to offer this participant several opportunities to speak but with say a limit of 5 minutes per.  This approach respects the time of the rest of the group and minimally disrupts the flow but satisfies the participants need to comment often.  You can’t change the person but you can change the rules!

When considering the collective; dynamics, politics, pre conceived notions and potential conflicts should all be evaluated and prepared for in advance in order to ensure every participant is contributing at 100% capacity and not hindered by behavioral issues.

That isn’t to say of course that as a ‘collaboration designer’ you can’t have a little fun.  At least one organization I know of employs water guns in their creative sessions.  If a member of the group is perceived by others to be pontificating, squirt!  If a participant is negative about an idea without first asking questions, squirt!  Condescending, squirt!  Hogging the floor, squirt!  You get the idea.