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The Collaboration Process
Collaborative efforts are great because they help several people achieve similar goals a lot quicker than by themselves. However, the more variables you add to something, the harder it is to manage the whole project. But the collaboration process isn't all that different from most problem-solving processes you may already know. The Scientific Method, Problem-Solving Method, etc. are all very similar at their core, but if you're struggling to grasp the concept, allow me to paint you a clearer picture.
- The collaboration process, assuming nothing needs much fixing along the way, should look something like this:
- Identify a problem that you and your collaborators are aiming to solve.
- Discuss with your partners practical solutions to solve the problem.
- Select the most effective elements to formulate the best plan.
- Divide the workload evenly between collaborators.
- Manage the project to ensure everything is completed on time.
- Execute the project as planned.
- Observe results.
- Repeat as necessary.
But such a brief list doesn't cover a lot of important issues, so use it as a refresher and continue with the article for a more in-depth look at each section of the process.
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Identify, Discuss, and Select
Identifying the problem is perhaps the most important thing you and your collaborators will have to do. It's something that you will have to clearly detail before starting anything; otherwise, it will be difficult to solve. Just remember to break down things as far as you can without going overboard.
For example, we can say that our business isn't making profits as much as we would like to see and leave it at that, but that raises so many questions. Are we still growing like we should? Is a certain part of the business slowing us down? Is the market no longer good for the product or service we're selling? What can we do to improve profits? Are we not advertising enough? And so on and so forth; those are the things you will need to discuss with your partners before proceeding. Also, problems may just be as simple as several artists wanting to create something together; keep that in mind.
Which leads into the second step which is to discuss. You want to discuss how to solve the problem as a team because in a collaborative effort everyone involved in the decision-making should have a say in the matter. Everyone should provide reasonable solutions to the problem at hand and contribute in some way.
As your discussion goes along you will begin noticing that you and your team will have come up with a lot of interesting ideas that you can begin selecting to form a single plan (as well as various contingency plans should something go wrong). Remember to try and include as much of everyone's input as you can and that compromise is key when collaborating.
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Divide, Manage, and Execute
Now that you have your plans in order you will want to divide the collaborative effort evenly amongst the team. Obviously, if a certain portion of the work requires a specialist it should go to the person who specializes in said portion. If the work cannot be divided evenly, make sure that the person with the most workload has the help they need to carry out the plan.
Assuming you've selected someone to oversee the project, make sure that the work is getting done and that if problems arise they are being dealt with. Keep your team informed of anything in the project and remember that decision-making is kept as a group thing.
All the while your team should be focused on executing your plan(s) to the best of their ability, and that if something should fail the next plan should be put into place as quickly as possible. Make sure that all the work being put into the effort is the best possible, while still maintaining deadlines and budget.
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Observe and Repeat
After your plan is completed make sure that you are paying attention to all that hard work you and your collaborators put into solving the problem. If it's good or at least at an acceptable and maintainable level then pat each other on the back and move to the next initiative. If the issue is still a problem, just keep coming up with new ways of trying to fix things until you get it right.