What I (Think I) Know about Collaboration

Some semi-random thoughts. I’m not really a collaborator by nature; I’ve had a lot of bad experiences and some good. Of course, it’s necessary in a lot of cases and beneficial in some. So I guess this list is an attempt to put down some principles to make it more good and less bad.

  • I’m not sure that there is any such thing as a truly equal partnership. When there isn’t a formal heirarchy, an informal one takes root based mostly on people’s ability to navigate interpersonal politics. Like many things that are, this isn’t necessarily good or bad. When the “leader” is leading because he or she is the one who is genuinely best at facilitating things happening, and when the “followers” do not abdicate their responsibility to contribute, it’s good. It’s bad when the “leader” is merely getting off on the rush of power, or when the “followers” don’t engage because they interpret it this way.
  • It’s possible to collaborate when you don’t agree on the overall vision. I don’t recommend it.
  • Collaborating is frequently inconvenient. Other people’s schedules are often a pain to deal with.
  • Collaboration is not inherently good or bad, and viewing it (or the lack of collaboration) as an end rather than a means is likely to cause problems.
  • Learn what you can from any collaboration, good or bad.
  • Collaboration means giving up control. Do so, but only carefully and thoughtfully.
  • There really isn’t anything wrong with being in charge. If it’s your vision, you probably should be.
  • Don’t collaborate with jerks. It’s not worth it.
  • Whatever happens, it’s not going to kill you.
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