To collaborate one needs to face the pressures that come with it. Like, for instance, what happens when we run out of things to say to one another? Well, maybe that’s not a problem for all of us, but the gist of the point is this; in the process of collaboration the parties need to continuously seek to respond to ideas, concepts and scenarios. And, to be able to do it right, one has to be able to think more broadly.
What helps me to better understand the ideas and views of my collaborator partners is writing. I write (that is publish) something about collaboration every week (and frankly I feel that I am often chasing my tail because I believe there are so many more things that need to be discussed and analysed). And this I only find possible because of one very simple activity I am pedantic about: a commitment to write almost daily. The process of writing is also a path to thinking and uncovering. My advice to all collaborators is to use writing as a tool to understand what is going on in the process of collaboration. This may sound a bit like journaling, and to some extent it is. But it should be also brainstorming, a conversation and business case building at the same time.
Most people have a well-developed sense of what works for them when they process, analyse, create or generally explore solutions. This is informed by years of traditional education, work, life and other factors that shape us. The challenge is how to approach learning to do something that we may have never considered vital. There’s no right or wrong school of thought here but a necessary point to make is that collaboration is demanding. It is not sufficient for collaboration to work without a conscious nudge towards learning something we may have ignored. This also applies to writing as a process. The good thing here is that a talent for writing is not necessary at all. Apart from some basic grammar so that things make sense, of course. Writing as applied to the collaboration process is not about how well something is written per se. The real value of the discipline of writing is in introspection, meditation, and pondering on concepts and ideas from some distance.
This may sound straight forward to those who are used to jotting down notes in meetings etc. But, writing as a form of analysis is a different beast. Writing ideas and concepts followed by written analysis purely on the basis of exercise is a powerful way of gaining a new perspective. The process of writing is not about the written outcome per se, but about clarity of understanding between collaborators. Here is a simple tip that I recommend trying. When you hear an idea from a colleague with whom you’re collaborating, write down as much as you can. Focus on the rich detail of what the person is saying. Later, spend some time reading it over (and over) again. No doubt you will quickly feel disinterested after you read it a second or third time. But here is when you must make a conscious effort to read it again and try to extract something you did not see previously. There’s no guaranteed ‘aha moment’, but there is an increased likelihood that a new perspective will emerge which may difference worth the effort.