The Power of Collaboration

As individuality grows, it’s essential to keep team efforts in perspective.

Source: Alec Zaffiro,

Imagine this: Your boss, or professor, enters the room. As the buzz comes to a hush, you and your colleagues are given a task:

“You are required to complete blank assignment over the next couple hours. First work on ____, then do ____, and finally, complete ____.

You may work in teams or by yourself. Go.”

What are your immediate thoughts? Do you pause and look around? Turn to your best friend? Maybe you get started on the assignment by yourself.

Your response to this scenario reveals a few things:

  • How you perceive collaboration
  • How considerate you are of others strengths
  • How you see yourself in regards to the whole group

What if your instructor also said “Once you sufficiently complete the task, you may go home for the day.”

Anything change?

World of Differences 🌐

Across the world, every region and culture has it’s own communal fabric. In America, we see ourselves as individuals — as small, but intricate, pieces of the puzzle. We tend to capitalize on our independence and consider ourselves undoubtedly unique. “There’s no one quite like you…” a common phrase heard growing up.

We want to stand out, move to our own beat, and make our decisions with conviction.

You can’t deny the weight of individuality in America.

Conversely, in other parts of the world, efforts shift toward interdependence. Many cultures cherish teamwork, collectivism, and common goals over singular aims. Japan, for example, has a population much more inclined to collaborative outlooks.

Maybe, we can learn a thing or two from our contemporary nations.

Let’s Face It 😐

Not all scenarios thrive under collaboration. Let’s acknowledge all jobs are not the same.

If a task is straightforward with a linear set of operations, solo-work can be just as effective. For example, one man can produce more widgets in an hour over three loafers. When the outcome has little to no variability, teamwork is less essential. But under reverse circumstances, where the task is complex with high variability, collaboration produces significantly higher results.

This explains why most high school and college students dread the idea of working in groups. These tasks are typically procedure-driven and entail a standardized result (e.g. a paper, report, or PowerPoint presentation). The team-aspect has less applicability and doesn’t serve this assignment well.

Yet, as we grow older and embark in our careers, we’ll find more exercises that favor teamwork. And when these interactions arrive, it’s important to have a solid understanding on why collaboration works.

Don’t Be That Person ❎

Unfortunately, we’ve all experienced group-work that’s turned out unpleasant because of crappy group members. You’ve seen it. The person who sits back; the person who agrees without question; the person who appears lax about the overall outcome.

That person is a killer to constructive collaboration.

It starts with openness and a willingness to contribute. Successful teamwork banks entirely on candid interaction and engagement. If you show up glum and careless, you’re defeating the entire purpose of a team.

Big Decisions Need Big Collabs 📝

If you think your life lacks important decision-making or you aren’t able to work in teams often, look a little closer.

We collectively make big decisions across the globe everyday; in the medias we praise, in the social issues we stand for, and in the businesses we support. Teamwork occurs in small ways, too — at the grocery store, in online strategy games, and especially in relationships.

This theme applies everywhere, perhaps more than you know. Thinking together can be applied in many ways, whether you realize it or not.

Okay, teamwork is important and powerful and… whatever. So what?

Why Teams Are Great 👐

Multiplex tasks that require a level of expression, strategy, or quality are best executed by teamwork.

When a task has high variability or many possible outcomes, it’s important to think with and against others.

First off, there’s a higher chance you create something dynamic with multiple inputs. Think about baking a cake. Sugar is all fine and dandy, but add a few more ingredients into the mix and you’ve got 10x the potential.

Secondly, teams drive competition. Any who says competition is a bad thing has probably never won anything. Competition prompts you to find areas of improvement and bring out the best in yourself.

The presence of others is enough to make us think more critically about our ideas and intuitions on how things should work. In a team, you naturally want to be a contributor — it’s bigger than you. You provide value because you want to see a part of yourself in the final product.

A team also acts as a filter for bullshit.

Personal ideas and inputs are not always equally spectacular to others. Your team is there to answer the almighty question “will this work?” When alone, we’re susceptible to incorporate components without knowing if others truly appreciate it.

Abstract minded projects require well-rounded, hands-on commitment.

It’s about playing off others’ strengths; it’s similar to a sports team. If you have bunch of players who all do the same thing, the team will not perform well.

Masterpiece 🎨

Thinking in the terms of “I” is our default mode. We often consider what we want and how we want it. This is not a great way to work. It doesn’t transition well to how we really operate in our society.

Our families, businesses, and frankly, our nations are built on working together. The power of collaboration is everywhere and it’s a clear way to higher quality creations / solutions.

Next time the situation presents itself, hopefully you’ll feel a bit more motivated to work alongside others.

- AZ

Bored, uneducated, homeless — em dashes are my specialty. I write what I see, think, and feel. That’s it.

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