What does collaboration mean to you? Does it mean doing what you’re told? How about finding someone else to do the work? Telling someone else what to do?

I hope none of those are your definitions of collaboration, and I hope that your definition of collaboration looks nothing like any of those.

Wikipedia defines collaboration the following way:
“Collaboration is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together in an intersection of common goals — for example, an intellectual endeavor that is creative in nature—by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus. Most collaboration requires leadership, although the form of leadership can be social within a decentralized and egalitarian group.” or at least it did the day I wrote this, April 5, 2010 at 9:14am EDT.

I like this definition of collaboration, but it does not always mirror my experience of collaboration. I like this definition because it talks about working together for common goals; sharing, which is a big part of Knowledge Management; building consensus; and that leadership comes through a decentralized and egalitarian group. I really, really, like this last part.

Leadership can come from anywhere and when I am working on a team that is collaborating effectively leadership does come from anywhere and everywhere, it is not hierarchical or command and control style. Everyone contributes, and everyone reaps the benefits. Everyone gets a chance to have a voice and contribute to the end product, diversity of opinion is valued and the end product is better than any one of us could have done on our own.

Unfortunately, I have also worked with groups/people that do not collaborate effectively. They wait for someone else to do the work, make things happen. Wonder why deadlines are missed, why communication is a challenge, or why the team doesn’t function effectively.

Things happen too quickly now, in this information age, with instant or near instant access to information. No one can know it all, if we don’t work together towards our goals, breaking down hierarchies, which only slow things down, we will be left behind, and no one wants that.