Collaboration and co-creation are an art form. The need and desire to work with others is rational but the ability to do so comes from deeper inside. In the last 2 years, I have participated in the co-creation of multiple projects and businesses and this blog is about sharing 4 of the most important things to remember if you want to collaborate or co-create effectively.
Stop seeing people as Human “Resources”
We have been programmed to build teams based on putting together people from different backgrounds and with complimentary skills. 1 IT programmer, someone from marketing, a person from finance, a sales guy etc… We tick all of the boxes and are then surprised that the people don’t seem to collaborate effectively together. This is what I call “needs driven collaboration”. It is essentially a transaction. The people in the team are very often put there rather than choosing to be there. It is all very rationale and completely overlooks the fact that people who work well together generally do so because they have chosen to work together, they trust each other, they respect each other and perhaps because they even have fun working together.
Irrespective of whether you are launching a project or start-up with people you know or people you don’t, the first important step is to see them as people rather than resources. The relationship between the people will be a bigger success factor than whether or not they have “complimentary skills”.
Having a shared vision or idea isn’t enough
It is exciting when you finally find a few people who seem to share the same vision as you. You start discussing the possibilities of collaborating around creating something which will take you towards that vision. Before you know it, you are co-creating a project or a start-up and you are full of positive energy. I have had 5 or 6 of those experiences in the past 2 years. I’ve met lots of people who have a “shared vision” on how the economy is changing and the role we could play in helping with this (r)evolution. In most cases, that wasn’t enough.
In one case, we shared the vision but we had different priorities so were unable to create something concrete as we couldn’t focus on the same vision at the same time. In another case, one of the potential partners had a very different view on how to achieve the vision and wasn’t very open to changing it. A third case never got anywhere because we had very different starting points and that “baggage” became an issue in the relationship.
Having a good relationship, complimentary skills and a shared vision is a good starting point but is not enough to successfully co-create something. Try to understand more about what is happening in the lives of the people you are about to do business with and don’t get too carried away by the enthusiasm of “sharing a vision”.
Guarantee transparency and build trust
Increasingly, the artificial barrier we have created between our personal and professional lives is starting to dismantle. There is a place for emotion in the workplace and we need to work with the entire person, not just their mind. All of this is important in effective collaboration. To enable it, we must establish an environment of trust so that people feel comfortable sharing how they feel within a business environment. Once the trust is in place, we can then guarantee transparency. In the case of co-creating projects or businesses, transparency means sharing how much time we spend working on the project, how much we get paid or expect to get paid in the future for our contributions etc… If there is trust and transparency then there will be less frustration and jealousy. Most of all, more fun and more fairness between the people involved. Check out this vido on one tool which I use to help create this transparency:
Get used to the fact that you can’t be together all of the time
Starting a project on your own takes time. Starting with others is generally even slower as you spend a lot of time discussing and trying to find consensus or middle ground. Don’t slow it down further by creating all sorts of logistical obstacles such as always having to meet face-2-face. This is especially true if you are 4 or more people. Don’t get me wrong, I think spending time together is extremely important to build trust between people. What I’m suggesting is that in parallel with that, you get the conversation, dialogue and exchanges going via online tools. There are lots of different ways of doing this from simply using closed Facebook groups to using specific tools such as https://slack.com.