What collaboration is and is not – it is a habit and not a rare species

collaboration what it is and is not

Collaboration is way of working with others with shared understanding to achieve mutual goals. Sometimes collaboration goes outside of our comfort zone to accomplish goals. It is critical to understand it to be more effective at it.

Collaboration helps us solve big problems this is a known fact but unfortunately we get confused sometimes and we get lost in a rigmarole of ‘thinking about its inefficiency’, we feel to it is ‘too risky’ to get out of comfort zone.

We might also have our concerns on the ‘unconscious’ signals we are sending to others on our over zealousness and sometimes we are afraid that our image and our relevance might take a beating.

Under such circumstances, it is essential that we clarify ourselves what collaboration is and is not.

It seeks to lay rest to our concerns and when the value of collaboration is clear, we will willingly seek out value added cross- functional projects to contribute and develop the necessary skills to effectively collaborate.

Here are some pointers to help us navigate the difficult waters.

What it is not

Knowing ‘what it is not’ helps us to come out our comfort zone fast. Knowing that we are not alone and there are others in the same boat as ourselves, helps us psychologically.

Collaboration is not a leadership style

Relationships are important but it should not be the means to achieve the tasks. We should have the clarity to understand the most important factors for teamwork to be a success.

It is to make everyone understand his or her responsibility, the importance of each team member’s contribution and how it contributes to the overall success.

Collaboration may not provide all the answers

We need to find our rhythm. The rhythm of collaboration. We should have the freedom and space to move with ease between solitary work and group work. It is often a general feeling that there is too much importance given to collaboration in workplaces. That may be true.

Collaboration and group work may not fit the bill for all types of work. For example, transactional work is best done alone, with focus. Heated debates in the conference room are common. We need to find our quite space to recharge and reflect on the happenings and on others perspectives. We need to give our minds that chance to think in a newer direction.

What it is

The value of collaboration may not be immediately apparent. There are some adjustments needed and new skillsets need to be built. It is important that we get out of our comfort zone, ‘ask for help’, and seek out opportunities.

Join along and collaborate with experienced hands

Join and contribute on projects with an experienced team. It helps you on the learning process. ‘Everybody was an apprentice’ at some point or the other in their life. It is never late to learn.

It is two way process where you contribute on your knowledge on the subject and also draw in from other’s experiences and expertise. Facing challenges together as a team provides an ideal opportunity to learn from the mistakes and recoup.

As a new comer in the field, it is also important that you pick up the tricks of the trade as well.

Connect with your ‘Connectors’

When we do not know about others expertise and their experiences, it becomes a barrier for our collaboration. On top of it, there is mistrust. It is important that we connect and that is the only way we can build effective relationships with more experienced people.

When we connect with experienced connectors, they might help us in introducing us to the right people with expertise who can become our potential collaborators.

Again, it builds your reputation as a trust worthy person. This is important as this helps in attracting more people with the right expertise, character and competence into your circle.

A dash of altruism helps

Sometimes we need to cut across hierarchical levels and teams to work on those important projects. There are opportunities everywhere. We just need to volunteer. Being altruistic helps. We need to understand and practice the fine art of ‘Give and take’.

Spending about 5 minutes in a day over a cup of coffee at your colleague’s desk, enquiring about their problems and challenges does wonders in the long term.

Everybody has some specialist knowledge in some way or the other. You can offer yours. In turn they will offer theirs with time.

Make way for short term assignments cross functionally and do not restrict your scope of work.

Talk to your higher-ups and open yourself to help others.


Having a collaborative mindset is essential in today’s competitive environment. If you are not able to solve a problem alone you can always count on others expertise and together you can achieve it.

Collaboration without doubt harnesses people’s ideas and makes use of dormant resources. It is never too late to collaborate or understand what collaboration is and is not. Have you collaborated recently? you can share your experiences.


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Ramkumar Yaragarla

I am 43 years old. Founder, Loving dad and Husband. Worked as an IT Business analyst and program manager in several Fortune 100 companies.Alumnus at the University of Warwick, UK. I love the WWW and write on Social aspects of information, Social collaboration, Digital Sociology, Digital Humanities and Work life balance. I enjoy playing on the beach with my 9 year old daughter. I am open to your suggestions and comments.
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