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9 Key Elements of Successful Collaboration

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 3/12/2011

Whether it’s a group, one on one, or massive collaboration, one must consider these key elements of collaboration to be successful. While some elements are very clear, others may need further clarification. Jean Scheid offers up what you need to know these all-important elements.

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    Is True Collaboration Possible?

    Time to Collaborate-Now What American Film Director, Elia Kazan said of collaboration, “I think there should be collaboration, but under my thumb." From that statement, one can see that in Hollywood, at least in Mr. Kazan’s day, a director wanted full control—often demanded it, or he or she moved on.

    True collaboration does indeed consist of certain variables in order for it to be successful. When researching the elements of collaboration, the best list I derived contained six elements, but once I researched a little further, I found there are really nine elements that should be addressed.

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    The 9 Elements of Collaboration

    No Everyone Collaborates the Same Collaboration at its fullest means everyone agrees, is happy, and works toward a common goal, right? If you think that sort of collaboration exists, you’d be wrong. Let’s look at the nine elements of collaboration, some clear and some not so clear.

    1. Goal – This element is very clear and one that’s hard to change once decided. If the goal is to build a better boat, increase customer satisfaction, or use more streamlined processes—that’s your goal and it’s the first step in collaboration.

    2. Communicating – A group certainly has to be able to communicate effectively if they want to collaborate. This means allowing communication to flow from every side, and includes fostering great listening skills.

    3. Reciprocity – This collaboration element brings in mutual acceptance without fear of reprisals or demeaning the giver of a collaborative idea. It often goes hand-in-hand with communication.

    4. Collaboration Roles – While collaboration roles can determine a facilitator, they can also identify individual roles, including the ever-important, agreeing to disagree, yet continue on with the common goal.

    5. Trust – If any one person of the collaborative group is of an autocratic nature, collaboration will be unsuccessful. All parties in any collaboration must trust one another and accept input at all levels.

    6. Decision Powers – This key element of collaboration actually means “joint collaboration" and not just the facilitator or initiator of the collaboration remaining in charge of final decisions without considering the input of everyone. If you're collaborating on your own—you’re like the film director Elia Kazan.

    7. Validation – The outcome of any collaboration is to meet the initial goal, right? If the collaborative team can’t find valid reasons to proceed or ways to get to the final goal, collaboration has failed.

    8. Emotional Intelligence – One must consider the human element of collaboration and introduce some emotional intelligence techniques to ensure no individual’s feelings are damaged, they are prohibited from input, or ideas are laughed at or ignored.

    9. Final Decisions – In order for a collaboration to be successful, final decisions must be clear, in writing, signed off on by everyone involved in the effort and finally monitored for success.

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    Using Collaboration Effectively

    Successful Collaboration These nine elements of collaboration will ensure success—if followed. The largest problem with collaborating effectively is dismissing the human element and not having a streamlined process to reach your common goal.

    Before you begin any collaboration effort, why not consider some team brainstorming games to enhance the collaborative process and get everyone aligned. Working together is indeed collaboration, but working awkwardly together is not.

    If your group fails time and time again, why not learn how to better collaborate effectively including reviewing the characteristics of collaboration?

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    References

    Center on Human Policy retrieved at http://thechp.syr.edu/incelem.htm

    Australian Research Alliance retrieved at http://www.aracy.org.au/cmsdocuments/Key%20elements%20of%20collaboration.pdf

    Elia Kazan Quote courtesy of BrainyQuote - http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/eliakazan307088.html

    Image Credits:

    Listening - MorgueFile/taliesin

    Group - MorgueFile/gyorgymadarasz

    Talking - MorgueFile/taliesin