Most organizational guidance touts the importance of Collaboration. It is a trait revered by executives, leaders and cultures alike. It is a compelling concept. It is also problematic for many. Here’s why –

As you would expect, people readily sign up for collaboration. “Sharing is caring” etc. However, when the distribution of rewards and/or losses is uneven – all bets seem to be off. Parties previously ready to join up suddenly want to revisit the original agreement or approach. There are even questions about the “agenda” of the parties involved – a sure sign trust is at risk. How did we get off the path so quickly?

Seems in our haste to get busy we often attend to only the bits of information that confirm the preconception with which we entered the deal. This “editing” shows up quite a lot when we are moving at speed. The desire to get things done drives us to selectively listen, overlook and “misunderstand” what our colleagues “meant when I said…”

So the problem isn’t with collaboration at all – it’s with us. In a world where multitasking, rapid prototyping, and “getting shit done’ have become the cornerstones of productivity and our worth as players in the drama – we are paying a dear price. Of the many failures, I have committed in my working life, failing to listen to others is probably the most grievous and recurring of them all.

What is the answer? Actually, we have to move more slowly to go faster. Experience suggests the ROI on agreements reached “before action” is double or triple the “zero-sum game” played in the wake of action. Would it not make sense to think about what is at stake for all parties at the onset? The more potential conflict that gets discussed the more rapidly the work can be completed.

Ask your colleagues what is the best that could come of what we are about to do? Then ask what is the worst? (If no one questions your motives or expresses a deep fear, you haven’t made it safe enough to speak candidly.) The more robustly you can answer the second question the more progress you will make – collaboratively.

Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself: