Collaboration is in right now. From the design hub to the boardroom to ‘public engagement’ – collaboration is invoked as essential to solving complex challenges. Organisations are moving away from top-down decision making approaches to more collaborative ones as a way to better manage projects, drive innovation and change, and increase productivity.
So why is collaboration all the go?
Maybe it’s a realisation that the challenges we all face are bigger, more complex and intractable than what we’ve wanted to believe. Maybe it’s because we recognise the people we have had making decisions for us don’t have the answers, and new perspectives are needed.
And maybe, just maybe, we are beginning to accept deep down that big changes and bold action mean hearing words we don’t like; seeing through others’ eyes; giving our sense of importance over to a bigger cause and standing tall, holding strong to common principles over immediate gains. Well… we’d like to think so.
We’re not surprised more people and organisations see collaboration as vital to what they do, or want to do. To be frank, it’s surprising how long we have all put up with and pretended other methods of decision-making work well.
Origins of collaboration
But then again, collaboration isn’t a tool of the powerful. It’s a method forged and re-forged on the margins – by activists, Quakers and indigenous peoples; groups often without access to any resources but each other and a passion for equalising power.
At the Groupwork Centre, we want to safeguard the integrity of collaboration as it has been crafted on the margins, and ensure it is not watered down as it is embraced by the mainstream. This co-option happens oh-so-easily.
The truth is, collaboration is rewarding but it’s also a tough gig. When was the last time you felt collaboration work? Really work? It’s rarely done well, particularly when big, tricky decisions must be made. Like any process for building partnerships, developing solutions and navigating change in a group, making decisions collaboratively requires a good process, high quality facilitation skills and lots of practice.
But therein lies the challenge of effective collaboration, right? Doing all that: making good decisions while we manage egos, different worldviews, short-term interests and fears is damn hard, individually!
It’s worth it
Done well, collaborative decision-making creates extraordinary outcomes that transcend the sum of all participants and which no individual could have envisioned. On a more mundane level, it simply means our every-day workplace decisions are better, and we feel better about them.
Collaborative decision-making processes are good for the individual, good for the group and good for the world. Given the challenges around us, we believe we need more of it. We need to weave together diverse insights and skill-sets and open up shared spaces to develop new solutions to old problems. We need to work with respect for each other, in the service of our common challenges, under the guide of our shared principles. Now that’s collaboration!
We’re really proud of our Collaborative Decision-Making process – it’s practical and it works. We invite you to collaborate and make a difference.