Over the years I have learnt that some things really make a difference to collaboration outcomes. A really big difference I should say. Collaboration with colleagues internally or people from other businesses (cross business collaboration) is always dependent on the people factor more than technology or process.
Good collaboration strategy then has to integrate the following six criteria (which I have identified through trial and error) before an investment and/or commitment is made.
Seriousness: The best definition of seriousness that I have heard is ‘being earnest in action and thought’. If the collaborating partner is not serious then it’s an unforgivable, time wasting exercise. There is no point whatsoever in thinking about going anywhere unless you absolutely judge that the person or group across the table demonstrate their seriousness. How to be sure if someone is serious is not a matter of a formula but an instinct one has to learn to trust over time.
Intellect: If you are talking to someone seriously about collaboration then it is critical that the person/s display intellect relative (to some extent at least) to the project. This can be a very subjective exercise. You need to focus on what you need in the collaboration. It is also a matter of personal preference. A meeting of minds so to speak is all part of this. One thing you can’t afford is a well-meaning person who is not able to follow the project or idea. This often gets tested when a chance for serious input is needed to resolve an obstacle in the collaboration process.
Capability: In the simplest terms I find that the capability of the collaborating partner/s should complement each other’s. The nature of this complex feature largely depends on the project itself. It is inevitable that some overlap in capability will occur and generally that is good for collaboration. But from a strategic point, collaboration has to address a broad range of capabilities for the project to succeed, and thus the need to look at partners who meet this criteria.
Integrity: Perhaps the most overlooked and easiest mistake to make is to relegate integrity as something desirable but not necessary. In my experience, when it comes to collaboration, integrity is gold. Sooner or later it will come up in the process of collaboration; normally if/when the project experiences difficulties and/or the onset of potential risk. When it comes to integrity, one either has it or doesn’t; beware of those who suggest otherwise.
Attitude: Collaboration in the way I think works best, is marked by two central attitudinal qualities: entrepreneurialism and willingness. Not every person who is capable of adding value to a collaboration project may be as entrepreneurial as another, which can be tolerated to some degree. But I find that due to the simple fact that collaboration can be challenging, it can be very disruptive, and in some ways unsettling if one needs learn to develop and adopt those attitudes.
Resilience: Finally, while resilience is not a new concept, it has a very special role. Collaboration come with its share of misfires, frustrations, disappointments, setbacks. The ability to recover, adapt and continue to progress despite setbacks is what increasingly separates a reliable collaborating partner from merely good intentioned ones.
There are many other things that also matter, but I believe that these are the main factors that make a difference in the end. Collaboration is experienced differently by different people so I suggest that every seriously inclined collaborator should learn and build on what works best for them.