How Do You Collaborate Best?

There are many ways of collaborating — working with other people towards a common outcome. Collaboration enjoys a broad definition, and thus can support many styles. Being gregarious, loud, and larger-than-life may be perceived as the dominant ideal, but that’s far from the reality. Your preference for collaborating with others can vary on many dimensions, such as:

  • Voice or Text. Do you prefer to talk interactively when you are collaborating, or do you prefer to write down your thoughts and reactions for others to read and respond to? Voice-based collaboration gives rapid-fire back-and-forth for discussion and debate. Written-based collaboration gives more time to ponder, think, and carefully state your position.
  • Face-to-Face or Remote. Do you prefer to collaborate in a face-to-face setting, or when remotely located from the people you are collaborating with? Being remote doesn’t necessarily mean being in another city or country though. Another way of painting the difference is when you work interactively with other people that you are physically co-located with, versus working by yourself on a task that is part of a bigger group deliverable. If you are working by yourself, you are remote from others—and that could be a short-distance remoteness (down the hallway) or a long-distance remoteness (in another city).
  • Small group or Large group. Do you prefer your collaborations to take place among a small group of people, or is your preference for a larger group? Smaller groups are often more intense, as fewer people are available for jointly working on the task at hand, but can be nimble and move quickly. Larger groups provide short path access to a greater breadth of people, but can collapse under the weight of coordination and communication flows if not managed carefully.
  • Known group or Anonymous group. Do you prefer working with a group of known people—you’ve met them in person, worked together around a table, and perhaps eaten a meal together—or is your preference for a more anonymous group? For the latter, while you may be from the same organization, you only know them as a voice down the line, an instant messaging contact, or as a result of reading their online profile?
  • Create or Respond. Do you prefer making a contribution in the initial creative phase of a collaborative endeavour, or is your preference to respond, expand, critique, and improve the ideas that other people have developed?

So – How Do You Collaborate Best?
Do you know what your preferred style of collaboration is? We’d love to get a sense of the spread of different preferences.

Could you please either:

  1. 1. Take our five question survey. It will take less than two minutes. If you’d like to enter the prize draw, a sixth question asks for basic contact details and a seventh about keeping in touch (yes/no). Take the survey now at How Do You Collaborate Best?

  2. 2. Leave a comment below. Feel free to use the dimensions above to describe your preferred collaboration style, or equally go beyond the above dimensions and paint a picture at a different level.

We have some pretty nice prizes for three people who take the survey or leave a comment—although you do need to be in Western Europe or the United Kingdom to qualify for one of the prizes.

In an upcoming post, we’ll talk about the result … and share some ideas about what to do when your preferred style is different from the other people you collaborate with.

4 Responses to “How Do You Collaborate Best?”

  1. Michael,

    I’m not sure what exactly you are trying to accomplish with this survey, so maybe my remark is not ‘valid’.
    The questions are somehow a little Yes/no-ish.
    For instance, I like to work with a group of people I know, but I also really enjoy working with a group of people I never met before. But you can only have this kind of collaboration once…

    I filled in the survey, but as I explained, it does not reflect for 100% the way I really love to collaborate.


    • Thanks Patrick – I appreciate you filling it out, and leaving a comment. I’m exploring an idea … and it’s still early days. Thanks for helping me to learn the complexities of collaboration.

  2. Context & topic
    It all depends on the Topic & Context of collaboration. The above mentioned is quite black & white, for me it never is. In some collaboration situations & topics I prefer working close together with a small group of people who I know while in other situations I prefer doing it in larger groups with multiple anonymous people. Even within those larger groups you might find that for certain sub projects or topics you split of part of the group and create small communities again.
    Same goes for the mediums. It totally depends on the situation. In collaborating with large groups of people in different language zone’s I prefer doing it by text while other situations where nuances are really important voice&face to face is preferred.
    While I’m an avid creator there are situations where I’m merely an onlooker and responder to what others do. That is greatly influenced by my own level of knowledge on the topic as well as my self-confidence as a member of the group.
    So I really don’t think you can say either of. In my eyes a truly socially engaged person will be able to utilize both ends of the spectrum for all of these dimensions based on Context & Topic of the collaboration and use what is most appropriate for the situation.

    • Great answer Femke – thank you. Your answer highlights the need for us to be competently able to shift between an ever fluid mix of collaboration styles … which is a challenge.

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