High-performing teams prize the benefits of working with the collective strengths and experience of the team members. Collaboration activates the wisdom of the group in service of the shared goal. From exploring fresh ideas to vetting viable options, when team members collaborate, they create stronger solutions together than any one could alone.
Despite the benefits of collaboration, it only works well when team members welcome opposing views and value candid critiques of ideas. When some team members are silenced or ignored, the benefits of their perspectives are subtracted from the equation. This can happen in subtle ways, as Joe learned firsthand.
On Joe’s team, the team leader, Teresa, was confident she gave everyone a chance to share their insights and ideas. And she did, except everyone knew that Teresa’s own opinion carried more weight than her teammates. Joe began to wonder if it was worth sharing his perspective when it never seemed to make a difference. He noticed some of his teammates seemed reluctant to speak up once Teresa had voiced her ideas. Despite Teresa’s efforts to give everyone a turn to talk, she often failed to recognize the value of the input that was offered and chose her own ideas most often.
For Joe and his teammates, the collaboration process was cut short. Team members must feel that their contributions matter and their input will be heard. If you want to get the most from your team’s collaboration, it’s time to be aware of your biases (toward yourself or others) and intentional about how your team interacts. Giving each team member a voice is vital to the collaboration process just as energetic discussion can spark the evolution and refinement of winning ideas.
True collaboration is characterized by thoughtful input from team members, fair consideration of all ideas and insights, and engaged interaction in a safe space free of censure. When this happens, collaboration can enliven your teamwork in three critical ways.
Innovation starts with seeing possibilities. The diverse perspectives and experiences of your team give them wells of knowledge and expertise to draw from in the creative process. Nothing sparks creativity like a collective brainstorming session where ideas fly and evolve with each fresh contribution. As every team member imagines what can be, the vision of the team is enlarged and illuminated.
Creating synergy is like gaining momentum. The team starts the ball rolling and moves it forward with collective energy. Each team member’s contribution builds on the others through a creative interaction that ignites top performance. Together, teammates capitalize on the individual input that’s offered in order to expand the final product into more than the sum of its parts.
As the team draws from its collective wisdom, its members are better at anticipating potential outcomes, both good and bad. Vetting ideas is a vital part of finding a strong solution and collaborating teams can do this better than any one person alone. Whether the team is developing a new product or tackling a tough problem, the collective ability to foresee potential pitfalls and plan for success is a welcome benefit of collaboration.
For Kristen’s conference planning team, envisioning the annual event from seven different viewpoints enabled them to take it to the next level. Instead of getting stuck in what had been done before, new team members offered fresh insights and ideas while veteran teammates shared their experiences to identify what could work and what could go wrong. Together, the team dialogued and disagreed and dug deeper until they had a plan wrought from the collective strengths of each team member. The final framework was enhanced by the synergy created through robust interaction. And most importantly, the conference was more likely to be a success because each idea that went into the plan had been elaborated and evaluated from various angles.