What does ‘collaboration’ really mean to people?

In my experience, this early work is almost never done — this needs to change and a ‘Bristol Scale’ has offered me a typology to enable me and the people i work with to be explicit about not only what we what to achieve but how we need to collaborate to achieve it.

My hypothesis is that the reasons that collaboration in often so difficult is that the participants are in practice framing the work in very different ways and want different things from it. This isn’t just an issue of a lack of ‘joint vision or common purpose’ — what we see in practice are fundamentally different motivations clashing against each other.

Photo by Freysteinn G. Jonsson on Unsplash

The first enabler of effective collaboration is ensuring that we know what the participants understand by the term — and how they are motivated.

The Bristol Scale — C1 to C5

How many of these types of collaboration do you recognise? How do you or your organisation approach collaboration? Are the people with whom you are trying to collaborate coming at it in the same way?

This is a recipe for frustration and failure — we need to be as clear about the type of collaboration that we seek to practice as we are about outcomes or objectives of a project. If we are not, we are setting ourselves up to fail.

And this doesn’t just have implications for the project in hand — it implicitly undermines the credibility of collaboration as a way of working and makes successful collaboration in the future more difficult.

So this is something we need to get right — because the longer we fail to address this issue the tougher we make it for ourselves in the future.



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