Top 4 Reasons We Can’t Collaborate Effectively


It feels a little strange to write about the difference between collaboration and compromise. I mean, we all know the difference. It’s pretty simple really. Compromise is when there are two differing opinions trying to come to a reasonable solution in the middle. Collaboration is when two or more parties come together in a joint effort to solve a problem or create something.

Yet I witness it time and time again. When many individuals or groups begin a collaborative process, it ends up turning into a compromise process. Compromise works best in conflict resolution. But in trying to solve a problem, a collaborative approach is best. Let’s take a look at the common reasons why collaboration is so difficult.

1.) We’re not trying to solve a problem. Compromise works great in conflict resolution. But it is a lot less effective when trying to solve a problem. The resolution to a compromise is somewhere in between what one entity wants and what another entity wants. The solution to a problem many times lies beyond our vision. So, if we truly want change because what we’re doing isn’t working – we’re probably not going to find the answer along the path that we’re already on.

2.) We can’t seem to suspend our bias. You’ve heard the old cliché about walking in another man’s shoes. But typically that is in the context of judging or prejudging another person. And it’s become some an old cliché that it’s easy to dismiss it. But in order to keep your collaboration from turning into a compromise, each party has learn to suspend their preconceived notions. That doesn’t mean you have to give up what you believe or dismiss your own bias. That has it’s own value. But if you can’t bring yourself to try and understand how someone else views the world, then you’ll never reach what I call a “beautiful solution”. (More to come on that).

The great thing about learning how to suspend our bias is, that you don’t have to change your vantage point for long. You an always go back to the way you’ve always seen the world. So, don’t be afraid to just pretend that what you think doesn’t matter. Don’t be afraid to have an out of body experience and try to look at the world from other people’s eyes. It’s just an exercise in empathy if nothing else. But it can lead to a life of insight and enlightenment – and effective collaboration.

3.) We aren’t open to the fact that our opinion doesn’t matter. Why believe something if you think it’s wrong? You have a right to your opinion just as much as the next guy. And you came to your opinions through careful consideration and years of experience. But I have a motto that has served me well in reshaping my world view.

I always believe that I am right. But I’m equally always open to the possibility that I could be wrong.

In other words, you have a lot to offer. You’ve not come to your conclusions on how the world works lightly. And even if your worldview is not completely intentional, you’ve lived a lot of life to help shape your perspective. And it’s a frightening, vulnerable place to be in. It doesn’t mean you can be easily talked out of the truths you’ve based your entire life on. It’s simply an acknowledgement that you’re not perfect. And in your imperfection, you may not even be aware of what perspectives are holding you back.

4.) We’re greedy. Many times when we say we want to collaborate we mean compromise. We don’t want what’s best. We want what we think is best for us. And that usually takes the shape of power, money, pride, lust. So, if someone is unwilling to look at another perspective in a meaningful way; if they’re unable to be open to the possibility that they could be wrong, then it’s very likely that they simply don’t want a solution – they just want.

If you’re in a constant culture of conflict and you’re trying to solve problems through compromise, then you’re likely missing out on solutions that can really make a difference. Solutions abound. But if you’re just trying to get a piece of the pie; if you just want to be heard without listening; if you think the world would be a better place if everyone would just think like you, then maybe creative problem-solving is not in your future.

There are many collaboration resources and tools out there. But if we can’t get passed the basic tenants of collaboration, we won’t find value in any of them. We don’t need consensus. We need change. And the only way to get there is if we learn to solve problems collaboratively.


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