Collaboration is a crucial skill for business today. It’s unusual for a single person to have all the talents needed, so collaboration is frequently called for. At ThoughtForm, we think a lot about working together. Our work often brings writers and designers together to produce a stronger solution than either would have produced alone. In doing so, we’ve butted heads enough times to produce some helpful collaboration advice for anyone uncomfortable with the idea of working on a team.
The 12 Collaboration Commandments
- Find something you like about your ally. What does she do well? What do you admire? Look for an opportunity to tell him or her.
- When she annoys you, recall what it is you like about her. (See 1.)
- Get comfortable with the idea that occasionally you are going to look dumb. It’s impossible to avoid and it is not a big deal. You’ll be much more productive if you can be comfortable with this fact.
- Laughter will make a lot of your collaboration problems melt away. Invest some time early in your relationship finding some things to laugh about. Later you’ll discover that this is time well spent.
- Agree that trespassing is okay. Give the writer permission to express opinions about the design. Also give the designer permission to have ideas about writing. With a new ally, have a conversation about trespassing to get the topic out in the open.
- When a teammate expresses an opinion about your work, say thank you even if it is an idiotic notion. Remember that your teammate is trying to help. Listen carefully for any part of the idea that is valid and deserves exploration.
- Remember that sometimes you’ll have to explore ideas that you don’t have much enthusiasm for, just to keep the alliance healthy. Just do it. It won’t kill you.
- Agree to accept roles on judgment day. When the time comes to decide about a paragraph, the person playing the role of the writer needs to make the call. Everyone else on the team can have an opinion up until that point, but then the debate must stop. For example, after the designer has heard everyone’s opinions about the drawing style of the visual model, let the designer decide.
- Big ideas have many parents. Avoid ownership language such as, “I like Bev’s idea.” Instead say, “I like the notion of showing a bridge.”
- Don’t expect any recognition for your own brilliant ideas.
- Get good at forgiveness. We’re all fallible human beings who are destined to make mistakes.
- Some people are toxic. Most aren’t, but a few are. If the relationship is going to make you sick or crazy, get out of it.
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