Why collaboration doesn’t work for you.


Everyone tells you that collaboration is the key to unlocking the success of the team. But you hate it. Too often collaborations end up being a gathering where everyone one moans about the world and there is no serious, focused  collaboration – A coffee morning collaboration, it may be socially beneficial but is ultimately a waste of your time. Despite the collaboration rhetoric that fills social media and leadership books, you prefer working in a silo, let’s face it you want to be right and get your own way. Working in a silo means you can get your shit done quickly, without interference. Who doesn’t love that?

The truth is...

You’re crap at collaborating. It’s not necessarily your fault, you almost certainly weren’t taught about collaborative problem solving in school. The focus of the education system is on individual excellence, everyone is in constant competition to get the best grades that they can, they don’t care about you, and you don’t really care about them either. You may have a twinge of sadness for a friend that didn’t do well, and you’ll celebrate the successes of people who did as well as you, but if they did better? Probably a small flash of jealousy.

You don't want to make the first move

This competitive streak stops you trusting other people, you doubt their motives and you want to make sure that you don’t end up doing all the work, while they take all the credit. They feel the same, so nothing happens. No trust = no collaboration. It seems simple, but unless you are prepared to take the time to build trust with people, then you won’t collaborate. Take the chance, make the first move.

You're trying to do too much

Even when you do make the first move, nothing gets done. Everyone has slightly different goals and they are not quite in alignment, but no one is willing to give up their goal to work towards someone else’s. Goals are essential, but trying to take on too many and achieve too much just leads to frustration. Be prepared to help someone else achieve their goal first. Yes, you may get burned if they don’t return the support, but what if they do? 

This goes back to making the first move, sometimes the best way to get something done is to help someone else first. If that collaboration is a success, then it will only get better the next time you work together – this time on your goal.

You think knowledge is power

Everyone loves being an expert, doling out nuggets of information, and being the go-to person for things within your domain. An “I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you.” approach. Knowledge hoarding because it gives you an advantage is not collaborative. 

In the Industrial Era, when innovation was slow and knowledge travelled even more slowly, this might have been a great tactic for gaining leverage and power. Today, when the shelf-life of what you know is much shorter, you are hoarding milk and not gold.  What you know has an expiration date, and hanging on to irrelevant information is more damaging than beneficial.

"We" is always more powerful than "I"

If you truly want change to happen, if you truly believe in the power of networking and collaboration, then stop being a coffee morning collaborator. Make the first move. Collaboration in education should be about pupils not egos.