Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Why Collaboration Fails

Unless they are absolutely desperate, most people want to do things independently.

Collaboration, of course, is the opposite of “do your own thing.” You have to agree to forfeit some things if you want to achieve the goal.

Right there, in a nutshell, is why most collaboration fails, at least in the workplace: Achieving agreement on the goal itself is elusive.

For one thing, the group has explicit goals (“promote X product launch”), but the true nature of its work (“promote X as the genius behind the product”) may actually be implicit.

And so achieving the explicit goal may not get the job done, or may even have the opposite effect (“Y is the hidden genius behind X.”)

For another, jockeying for power among the members of the group is a known collaboration-killer. They say “there is no ‘I’ in team,” but rarely are groups this high-functioning.

Moreover, there is a person in every group who is absurdly well-treated, while someone else is unfairly denigrated. The imbalance isn’t going to help move momentum forward.

Finally, there is a financial element to project success, for example if it demonstrates the irrelevance (or excess costliness) of a member of the group, a person or unit outside it.

We assume that people instructed to collaborate will do so “because they should.”

But it is more practical, and rational, to address the actual motivations of people. And this includes the unconscious and conscious value determinations they make, about whether and how much to participate.

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Copyright 2018 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author’s own. CC0 Creative Commons photo by suju via Pixabay.