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  • Writer's pictureBarb Bickford

What is "collaboration"?

Recently, I came across an article that used the word "collaboration" to describe an outcome where two parties each got some of what they wanted. Is that "collaboration"? It sounds more like a barter to me.

One of my mentors, Harry Webne-Behrman, defines collaboration as “working together to achieve a common goal or purpose.” He explains, "Collaboration is much more than simply ‘working together.’ It is to do so ‘to achieve a common goal or purpose.It is a process that engages participants in a genuine exploration of their common needs and interests, through which they seek mutually beneficial outcomes.” *

Webne-Behrman contrasts collaboration with coordination (“where we communicate from our separate positions and needs, but try not to step on each other’s toes”) and cooperation (“where we seek to achieve our independent interests, rather than focus on those that are shared”). He asserts that “collaboration has the potential to invent new identities and ways of relating to one another, ways of forging a sense of ‘We’ beyond ‘You’ and ‘I’ in our work together.”

This has been my experience, as well. True collaboration somehow enables us to transcend our opinions, judgments and positions to create something new, something that helps each of us receive what we need and that we created together. Collaboration gives us insight into ourselves and others. It frees up resources and leaves us feeling heard, respected and valued.

Let's have more of this kind of collaboration! And thank you, Harry, for helping me learn how to collaborate.

* Webne-Behrman, Harry M. What Matters at Work. 2020. Independently published. Learn more about Harry's book at the blog What Matters at Work?

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