Collaboration requires a safe place to express ideas and operate on a foundation of mutual respect and trust. An important distinction to make, however, is that collaboration is not a “let’s just all be nice” state of affairs. To better define collaboration, we must be clear on what collaboration is not.
Collaboration is Not Forced Consensus
Forced consensus is the death of the creative process. To agree with someone just to avoid conflict is to sacrifice collaboration for a facade of peace. The best solutions are the ones that were battled over, because they represent the outcome of everyone’s best thinking. Each player is given space to express their view and then together you can debate the advantages and disadvantages. Challenging one idea with another is a huge part of collaboration.
Collaboration is Not a Lack of Accountability
Collaboration is a product of a commitment to a culture of mutual respect and trust. If an employee is not meeting expectations, a strong culture of collaboration enables the conversation that will put them back on track. Far from diminishing accountability, collaboration helps to reinforce it.
Collaboration is Not Avoiding Confrontation
You cannot have true collaboration and avoid conflict. Collaboration is not about keeping out of each others’ way. When you avoid confronting others, you end up with the above states: forced consensus and a lack of accountability. To successfully foster collaboration, the CEO and team members must embrace conflict as part of the creative process. The established culture of collaboration enables them to do so on a foundation of trust and mutual respect.
These characteristics – forced consensus, lack of accountability and avoiding confrontation – are the antithesis of collaboration, as they stymie the fierce commitment to the appreciation of unique perspectives and to the honest conversations that resolve tough issues.