Recently in my Women’s Entrepreneur Group (WEG), we had the benefit of an online discussion with Delia Horwitz and Paula Vigneault, authors of Collaboration Soup: a Six-Step Recipe for Co-Creative Meetings and Other Conversations. I often facilitate planning and brainstorming meetings with my clients, and I was looking for tips on how to help groups work together. The theme of Collaboration Soup is that if each participant were able to contribute her unique “ingredients”, the group output would be a superior “soup”.
During our Skype call I realized I was looking at the topic of collaboration way too narrowly.
Collaboration is no longer just a group process technique to be pulled out for brainstorming new products or deciding on marketing initiatives for the upcoming year. Collaboration is now critical for business survival.
Via technology we now have access to almost any piece of information. But it is impossible to process all this data. We cannot figure it out by ourselves. And we cannot know what is coming. Contrary to the image of the “pull-up-by-the-bootstraps-solo-entrepreneur”, we can only be successful by true collaboration and co-creation.
The real struggle comes in the day-to-day act of what we now think of as collaboration. Many members of my WEG group related stories of time-draining networking meetings or partnerships that never produced results.
After carefully listening to our struggles, Delia and Paula helped us take a fresh look. Often we schedule meetings or sign up partners and feel our “task” is complete. Instead, effective collaboration is a thoughtful, deliberate mindset and process. Delia and Paula modeled this process as follows:
Screen: Do you see a potential win-win relationship with this person? If not, set up a low risk, limited time phone chat to learn a bit more before investing more.
Prepare: What are your goals with this connection? Share a brief agenda in advance outlining your goals and the purpose of the meeting.
Converse: Do you have shared values, needs, and skills? Be transparent and honest about your vision and what you hope to achieve. What are your expectations? What would make the other party feel that she also gets something from the exchange?
Summarize: Before leaving, summarize what, if any, next steps should be taken by each of you. Can you take small steps to build trust and also to learn more about how the other works?
Delia and Paula’s Collaborative Conversation Worksheet can be found here.
Has collaboration been critical to your business success? Share in the Comments section below.