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October 13, 2020

Is Collaboration the New Cool? – #MTtalk Roundup

Yolande Conradie


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Getting Ahead Together

There are things in life that we can only do alone, like reading a book, finding the motivation to go to the gym class, or committing to self-care. But there are also many things that we can't do alone.

Imagine being the fastest relay athlete in the world, but refusing to hand the baton to your teammate. You'd all lose. I've heard brilliant violinists and pianists, but none of them can "be" an orchestra. A symphony requires collaboration.

Even some of the greatest geniuses in history collaborated with others. Take Albert Einstein, for example. One of his fellow students, Marcel Grossman, was a brilliant mathematician and his notes were of great help to Einstein. In 1913, they jointly published a paper which laid the groundwork for the theory of general relativity. 

As another famous physicist, Isacc Newton, once said, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Even though he worked on his own, Newton's theories were in large part thanks to the pioneering research of those who came before him.

Three Essential Collaboration Skills

With the COVID-19 pandemic (and the subsequent restrictions and lockdowns) still disrupting our working lives, many of us find ourselves doing our day-to-day work from kitchen tables or bedrooms. Gone are the water-cooler chats, spontaneous huddles, and impromptu brainstorming sessions. All of us have learned to collaborate in new ways. This got me thinking about the skills you need to collaborate successfully.

Mindful Communication

High on my list of must-have skills, is mindful communication – and it's more than simply talking and listening. 

Mindful communication is about taking the time to consciously put yourself in the position of those with whom you're communicating. What are you assuming about them/their position/their knowledge? How does this influence the quality of your communication?

Mindful communication is also about listening closely to what is said, and noticing what isn't said, too.

An Open Mind

A second skill or mindset, that I think is important, is having an open mind.

To collaborate well you have to be able to listen to – and accept – new ideas and new ways of doing things. It also means being creative in the moment and asking, "How can we best make this work now?" The solution might not be perfect, but it might be the beginning of something much bigger.

Mandatory lockdowns have shown us that the previously unimaginable – like entire corporations switching to remote work overnight – are indeed possible.


My third and final "go-to" skill is adaptability. Sometimes it's necessary to change plans, direction or strategy at the drop of a hat. If you don't adapt, you'll be left behind – fast.

However, with adaptability in mind, it's also important to remember that sometimes collaboration might slow down progress or result in groupthink. It's important to be aware of the pros and cons – and to adapt as needed.

Is Collaboration the New Cool?

Expressions such as, "Collaborate, don't compete," are telling of a general change in attitude. Collaboration is quickly replacing competitiveness as what many see as the key to success, and organizations are focused on fostering a sense of community and shared ownership in critical areas.

During our #MTtalk Twitter chat last Friday, we talked about the pros and cons of collaboration. Here are the questions we asked and some of your most insightful responses:

Q1. Collaboration is just a fashionable fad – it'll pass. Agree/disagree? Why?

@MduduziTNtuli I think it is the way to go now, looking at growing or empowering each other. I believe in opening opportunities for others and building a relationship – and it will not fade away.

@miladechant Collaboration is never a fad and has never been a fad. It is a human support system. Collaboration has been in existence for eons – from tribes to village communities, to nomads to families to various communities.

Q2. Is collaboration always a good idea? Why or why not?

@JusChas Collaboration is not always a good idea. I say this b/c in reality, some things just won't mesh. Can the sheep and lion truly live in peace? And why do they need to work or live together? Yet, it doesn't mean collabs are not necessary.

@DhongdeSupriya Absolute words like "always" are misleading! It's not a good idea if collaboration is done for some ulterior motive! After all the world is not a fair place.

Q3. What has the pandemic taught us about collaboration?

@J_Stephens_CPA You don't have to be physically present to another person to collaborate.

@letusthink2  It's taught us the importance of COMMUNICATION and how it can change.

Q4. What damage does lack of collaboration do to a person or team?

@WonderPix Lack of collaboration can lead to loneliness, lower productivity, less team cohesion.

@lg217 You can fall behind on work/times/industry standards/innovations, lose touch with your team, and you miss out on so many opportunities for growth and learning!

Q5. Why do people resist collaborating? What makes it difficult to collaborate?

@TwinkleEduCons To be a comfortable collaborator, you have to be clear about your goals and boundaries, and confident to stick to them. Particularly if you do not know the person you are collaborating with well. I'd probably avoid collab with an overbearing glory-hunter!

@Yolande_MT A person with a "me, me, me" attitude resists collaboration because their ego is in the way.

Q6. What does successful collaboration look like?

@aamir9769 Successful Collaboration looks like a vibrant positive atmosphere in the team with the cheering faces. You will not see jealousy or ego revolving around.

@Queen_Nandi Shared vision, common interest, shared responsibility, shared enthusiasm.

Q7. How have you been able to collaborate remotely? Is it as effective as in person?

@MicheleDD_MT [I've] worked in a virtual organization for several years. It is very effective with the right tools, processes and skills in place.

@lsmurthy99 Crisis brings innovation and people connect as well. Though it takes great efforts in virtual meeting to have patience and perseverance – little more than in personal meetings. The intent and content drives better collaboration.

Q8. What tools have you used to work collaboratively?

@ColfaxInsurance Zoom has been key for collaborations for us. I've also joined quite a few Twitter chats and collaborated that way with many people.

@JKatzaman The handiest collaboration tool is the cellphone, to carry on conversations. Email and video chats also help, if only to save gas on the commutes.

Q9. What behaviors support effective collaboration?

@Chetna1806 Listening to others, looking for learning, and having a common goal helps in facilitating collaboration.

@SizweMoyo Respecting deadlines, keeping up with the schedule, doing your part of the work, etc. These are vital to the team feeling good that they don't have to parent anyone, and that everyone is doing something without the team having to break into teams within the team.

Q10. How do you help your team to become better collaborators?

@paulottewell Fostering a culture in which collaboration is mutually beneficial, self-reinforcing, and recognized/rewarded.

@Midgie_MT By offering to share my experiences using different technology platforms. By speaking with our technology expert, together with a colleague to discuss and discover tools and approaches that could meet our needs.

Thank you to everyone who joined our chat. To read all the tweets from the session, have a look at the Wakelet collection of the chat.

Coming Up

The world of work has changed considerably as a result of the pandemic. For our next #MTtalk we're going to discuss how people's careers have been impacted. In our poll this week, we'd like to know how you feel about your career plans. To see the poll and cast your vote, please click here.


How to Collaborate Successfully

Breaking Down Silos at Work

Walking Meetings

Engaging People in Learning

Collaborative Intelligence

Too Many Cooks: When Collaboration is a Recipe For Disaster!

How Businesses Work Together

Working in a Virtual Team

Managing in a Matrix Organization

Mindfulness in the Workplace

8 Ways to Improve Your Powers of Observation

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