Deep Collaboration — Have You Covered Your 4 Bases?

During my early work career, authority and control were still operational skills for organizational leaders, which was the main reason I opted for self-employment.  Frankly, working in autocratic hierarchical organizations of that day was paramount to having one’s creative flame snuffed out.

For someone who favoured “asking forgiveness over asking permission,” employment in one of these traditional workplaces was a mind-numbing tragedy and where I formally decided, “never again.”

Fortunately, the 21st millennium and collaboration technologies have brought new workplace freedoms and attitudes into most industries and sectors.  Living in a complex and fast-moving global economy requires a rapid and iterative innovation cycle, which means businesses can no longer afford to subvert creativity with authority and control.  In other words, organizations need to continually access and execute fresh new ideas from all employees and stakeholders rather than rely solely on the executive’s annual strategic planning session.

This paradigm shift from command and control to collaboration as led by social media’s technology platforms enabled a move from representative democracy to direct democracy.  Instead of having only a select few corporate or government leaders be the voice for many, these organizations are finally recognizing the value added by having all employees deliberate, design and decide on what future is most desirable for all concerned.

That treasured saying, “we have the technology” would seem to apply given the literally hundreds of collaboration platforms currently in existence.  However, direct democracy requires collaboration skills beyond those provided by computer platforms.  This deeper form of collaboration necessitates human-to-human interaction where both intimacy and action are initiated.

The intimacy (in-to-me-see), both intra- and interpersonal, inherent in deep collaboration pulls forth greater density and depth from the diversity of knowledge and experience.  Deep collaboration goes beyond computer software that allows us to work together simultaneously on the same project or document.  Don’t get me wrong. I am not dissing technology platforms, which make my “team” work easier and more efficient.  Having said that, there isn’t a machine in existence (so far) that can mimic the experience of a working team when its deliberations meld synergistically into some new insight or product.

Of course, for synergy to happen on a regular basis, the team members must exhibit emotional and social maturity as well as contribute complementary skills.  To tap into and gain advantage from cognitive and cultural diversity, a team must understand what motivates each of its members.  Individual preferences and operating styles, when understood and then called forth at the appropriate times, are the driving force behind committed, creative, contributing teams.

Consider the four preferred work styles below, and decide which best reflects you.

Pioneers value possibilities, and they spark energy and imagination on their teams.  They believe risks are worth taking and that it’s fine to go with your gut.  Their focus is big-picture.  They’re drawn to bold new ideas and creative approaches.

Guardians value stability, and they bring order and rigor.  They’re pragmatic, and they hesitate to embrace risk.  Data and facts are baseline requirements for them, and details matter.  Guardians think it makes sense to learn from the past. 

Drivers value challenge and generate momentum.  Getting results and winning count most.  Drivers tend to view issues as black-and-white and tackle problems head on, armed with logic and data. 

Integrators value connection and draw teams together.  Relationships and responsibility to the group are paramount.  Integrators tend to believe that most things are relative.  They’re diplomatic and focused on gaining consensus.

Not unlike other preference profiling techniques (Big Five or HEXACO), all four styles listed above are contained in varying degrees within everyone.  However, we typically prefer expressing only one or two of them — I am a Pioneer-Integrator.  The bonus of having all four styles represented on one’s team is that the full creative solution-finding cycle is covered without treading on each other’s toes.  This amounts to each of us being responsible for those tasks we are best at and enjoy doing most.

Now, consider a current or recent team activity in which you participated.  Were your four bases covered by having all styles represented on your team?
For more on the deep collaboration of aligned teams, click here.

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