Today, the most successful inventions, products, or innovations are a collaborative effort. Gone are the days when one person or one company has all of the answers. We live in a competitive society and collaboration is critical to innovation and separating our organization from others.

Since there are no individual performers in a collaborative effort the ability to communicate is one of the most important components of collaboration. You probably know someone in your organization that can create a negative impact simply by saying good morning. This is because our communication is not simply words. It is not what we say but how we say it. Our communication includes our writing, tone and volume of voice, eye contact, and body language.

Confrontation will kill collaboration but many confrontations are the result of poor communication. Although we meant it one way it was taken another way. Here is an example to illustrate this point.

We work with a nonprofit. This nonprofit had what appeared to be a very simple issue. They discovered that their corporate checking account had an attempted outside fraud attempt. The solution is simple enough—close the account and open a new account. In this example, our collaborative team is the Treasurer, Accountant, Executive Assistant, Executive Assistant, and Board Chair. Rather than discussing the process and agreeing of the duties each took action without informing the others. The administrative assistant and the bookkeeper contacted the bank branch. When the Treasurer learned about this she was livid about not being brought into the loop and discussed taking the administrative assistant off the account. The executive director got involved because he was protective of his administrative assistant. It would have been much easier of the entire group of had done a better job of communicating with each other.

Since communication is critical in establishing an environment where collaboration can take place everyone needs to raise their level of understanding concerning the importance of personal communication skills.

When the group develops trust with each other it can then explore multiple options from various perspectives. By people working together they will discover the means to improve existing processes or to invent new ones. Think of it as inquiring minds, searching for the best solutions, the best answers for a given circumstance.


Collaboration will work best when the following three conditions are in place:

With those three conditions collaborators should have an open mind and look for all outcomes rather than trying to sell their own idea. They should practice possibility think rather than scarcity thinking. Finally, trust and open two way communication will create group learning for better innovation and creativity.

How is collaboration in your organization? Could you learn to do it better?

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