Collaboration is a natural act for human beings. Collaborating is how we have stayed safe as we progressed from ancient to modern times. It is so ingrained in us that we are taught to share our toys and play nicely together from the moment we begin interacting with others. Yet when we start school another ‘C’ word takes center stage in our vocabulary - Competition! There is nothing wrong with competition other than it seems to have edged out collaboration, and that is because competitiveness is what gets rewarded. Whether it is a sports prize or a place at a great university. We learn that to get rewarded it is better to compete than to collaborate.
Couple the competitive behavior with the western culture of individualism and we have the twin horns of a dilemma. We’d like to collaborate but we’ve learned to compete. And we do need to be competitive sometimes. I like to believe that people collaborate inside and compete outside of the organization, however that is not the case. We all know that behavior change is hard and there needs to be a reward, so here are three WIIFMs (What’s In It For Me) to consider if you are asked to collaborate on a project outside of the scope of your job role.
Collaboration potentially increases the opportunities for you to contribute. Everyone concerned would, certainly appreciate for example being part of the team that creates the genesis of a product or solution that proves popular with clients and shareholders. Your contribution might vary from innovation to coaching or simply sharing your knowledge with others. Whatever your contribution, it should always be towards the bigger picture as well as your own goals. Being able to contribute and share promotes your growth and your sense of self worth, ‘I made a difference.’
Everyone needs a little variety in their role. It helps recharge your batteries and refresh your enthusiasm for your day job. IDEO, a global design company, encourages spontaneous and planned collaboration. When design projects come in the team may invite others to make a cameo appearance as they work towards solving a design challenge. These approaches are considered accolades and a kind of holiday; employees like to participate because it gives them variety.1
3. Personal development
Being included in a project team is a golden opportunity to achieve WIIFMs 1 and 2. It is also a chance to develop and broaden your knowledge and skills; they could be worthy of an entry on your resume. That might help you compete for your next promotion or the raise that you want.
There are so many rewards for collaboration both for you and the organization. I just shared three to get the conversation started - what would you add?
- Sutton R,I, & Hargadon, H. (1996) Brainstorming Groups in Context: Effectiveness in a Product Design Firm. Administrative Science Quarterly, 41, 685-718.