The Psychology of Collaboration

Are you looking for another  technology solution to enable collaboration? If yes, please hold on. I would suggest to read below lines before going ahead with your search.   

A quick survey of a consulting company (100+ consultants) shows how many technologies are available at the disposal of its employees. 

  • 2+ collaboration solutions e.g. SharePoint
  • 3+ EFSS solutions e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive
  • 3+ IM Tools e.g. Hangout, Lync, Skype
  • 2+ Online Meeting Tools e.g. GTM, Fuze, WebEx etc.
  • Specialized Collaboration platforms e.g. Basecamp, Trello.
  • Video Conferencing Solutions e.g. Polycom
  • IP Telephony e.g. Cisco 

So many technologies being available does not mean that people are collaborating in best possible way. If technology is not a constraint then what else holds back people to collaborate? Let’s look at the non-technical or psychological aspects of building a collaborative environment. 

Collaboration, at its most fundamental level, means that two or more people work together to achieve a common objective. Objective may be  working on project, solving a specific business problem, or simply organizing a family event. You need something more than technology to enable everyone to work together to achieve such objectives.   Let’s look at the few key non-technical factors involved here. 

  • Openness to Learning:

Openness to learn is key to work with other people in a meaningful way. In order to learn, one should have courage to admit his challenges, weaknesses and limitations. No one knows everything in this world.  Once you have this mindset, you will start seeing learning opportunities, that can eventually lead to collaborative environment where people’s skills complement each other and they achieve something greater, beyond capacity of any individual. 

  • Openness to Share

Collaboration is not a one way process. You need,  at least, two people to work together. Along with learning, you must be open to share your knowledge and information. Sharing will motivate other people once they see value of sharing.  Eventually,  they will start sharing whatever they know.  

  • Belief in Common Cause

All participants in collaboration effort must believe in the common cause. Only then they will put their energy and efforts to achieve this objective. Without this belief, you only see problems, not opportunities. 

  • Mutual Trust

Trust is key to create an environment where all participants have mutual respect and they believe in whatever they are saying and doing. Without trust, you will be skeptic about other participants’ motives and will not put your full energy in the task at hand. 

  • Safe Environment

When you share your knowledge and opinion in a group setting, basically you are exposing yourself in front of other people and are becoming vulnerable to their criticism (and potentially sarcasm)). You should strive to create an environment where sharing and learning is encouraged and reinforced while negative behaviors are discouraged. Basically, people should feel safe to share their input. 

People used to collaborate even when there was no SharePoint or Facebook. Technology can definitely help once you have above mentioned values in place. Technology can definitely accelerate the collaboration process and make it efficient. It can also create new possibilities by eliminating the time and space barriers.  However, technology will make no difference if people don’t share and learn, don’t believe in cause, and don’t trust each other. 

What I believe is that collaboration is not a technology problem anymore. Please share your thoughts and experiences regarding building an environment conducive for collaboration. Once you share, only then I can learn…:)

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