CollaborationEarly this month on a Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Greenville South Carolina I read an article in the Southwest The Magazine, by Katie Rich entitled “Comedy of Errors, Five lessons on teamwork and failure from the halls of Saturday Night Live”. After reading this article I began to think about how the lessons discussed in this article applies directly to our ability to successfully collaborate and share knowledge. As a Knowledge Management practitioner I’m always looking for keys to improve how individuals and teams collaborate. Collaboration is at the cornerstone of sharing what we know. On that note… The Five (5) Ingredients of successful Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing are:

1 – Be present

Being present means participate in the conversation! I know that there are many personality types that we work with. However, if you are an introvert this is the time to come out of your shell and participate in the conversation and the free form exchange of ideas. Believe me everyone in the group will benefit from you sharing what you know and the questions that you may have. If you are an extrovert, by all means share but let others share and I guarantee that you will also learn something in the process.

2 – Know why you are there

When you are brought together to participate in a group discussion it’s more than likely you are there to share your expertise on a certain subject(s). Understanding your significance to the overall team dynamic will allow you to focus your participation in the way that the team will benefit the most from. Contributing your knowledge and experience will bring about positive outcomes that the entire team can benefit from and contribute to a successful collaboration session.

3 – Do not try to change the people you’re working with

Please understand that “you cannot change the people you work with. However, you can change the way you react to the people you work with” (a direct quote from the article). Listen to the ideas, views and comments of all of your team members regardless of how you may feel personally about them. You may feel that someone may annoy you, always produce less than quality work, always has to have the last word and/or constantly dresses inappropriately at work … don’t shoot the messenger … always respect everyone’s input.

4 – Know (or see) the Big Picture

There should be stated issue(s), subject(s), problem(s) or reasons the team has come to together. This information should have been communicated before the collaborative session is held. However, if that is not the case, stating (or restating) the reason(s) everyone has come together at the beginning of the session is always a great idea. Seeing the big picture, everyone is more likely to understand better how their expertise fits and are better able to focus on contributing to the overall discussion.

5 – Treat everyone with respect

At the end of the day no matter how we feel about each other (see #3) just be good to one another and treat everyone with respect. Sometimes people make it hard, and sometimes it may be you! If you have a difficult teammate just lay on additional kindness and respect. Treat everyone like they are the most important person and their contribution matters to the big picture. Everyone likes to feel that they are respected and that they matter.

One Final Note

An excellent KM method to use to conduct a collaborative session is a Knowledge Café. A knowledge café brings a group of people together to have an open, creative conversation on a topic of mutual interest to surface their collective knowledge, to share ideas and to gain a deeper understanding of the issues involved. Ultimately the conversation should lead to action in the form of better decision-making and innovation. This will be a great opportunity to practice the five (5) ingredients of successful collaboration and knowledge sharing. Click here for more information on knowledge café’s.

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