Collaboration is “working together towards a common goal”, but how do I know when and where to do that? Any situation that has a problem and a solution is a perfect opportunity to collaborate, and here’s why.
Collaboration works really well when all parties involved share the same goals, or face the same problems, and have some intrinsic motivation towards achieving or solving them. Goals and problems are motivating in and of themselves, because they create unresolved tension.
Goals present an “end point” that implies the journey or task is incomplete in some way. There’s a finish line, we’re just not there yet. Problems are the same way. When we see a problem, we instinctively look for the solution, and if we don’t see it, it sparks some inner curiosity that makes us want to find it.
Take brainstorming for example. Brainstorming inherently means people working together to solve a problem. It implies a high level of complexity, or why would it require a dedicated event with a guest list? It also seems to imply a degree of unknown-ness or newness that requires exploration by the parties involved.
Department or company projects are another great example. They create a finish line, but one that can only be reached as a team. This creates a twofold motivation. Individuals are motivated to collaborate because none of them can reach the goal alone, and the team is motivated to leverage those individual skills and assets.
This is only to say that these are great opportunities for collaboration, not that they always turn out that way. The motivation is the important part. Extrinsic motivation (compensation for achieving the goal) has to be balanced with intrinsic motivation, the latter being much more powerful.
Problems that need to be solved and goals to be reached are just such motivations, and it is in these situations that we should try to collaborate. Any situation that has a problem to be solved or a task to be completed presents an opportunity to collaborate with someone. If we start taking those opportunities every time they are presented we can become expert collaborators, meaning more collaboration in more situations. Practice makes perfect!