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Collaborative Insight April 2017 - ISSUE 41

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David HawkinsDiscussion Corner

What do we mean by 'collaboration'?

It is no difficult these days to find a reference to collaboration in both the public and private sectors. Unfortunately it is used as a generic term and whilst collaboration can mean many things this lack of definition is perhaps the first step to creating confusion and eventually tension. We may all have our own views but I have taken to promoting a little more granularity as a way of delineating the term collaboration and what many actually mean when they use the term.

'Collaboration' is perhaps better considered as a systemic process which provides the overarching concept of how groups or organisations work together. By adopting this approach the generic term is clearly focused on the methodology required to ensure effective engagement for mutual benefit such as outlined by CRAFT and the international standard.

To 'Collaborate' is more appropriate when considering how individuals, groups or organisations wish to interact in order to develop business activities and achieve outcomes which they could not achieve individually.

'Collaborative' is more applicable to the attitude adopted by individuals or groups when they elect to work in an integrated way but can also be more widely used since being collaborative does not necessarily mean an integrated business model.

'Collaborative working' is more likely to reflect the behaviours that are required or have been defined when disparate groups engage in joint activities under a collaborative umbrella.

What collaboration is not is co-operation, compliance or for that matter compromise. The former of these simply infers that individuals or groups will work in a constructive manner. The desire for compliance without consideration for other parties clearly flies in the face of collaboration since it negates the cross flow of ideas and innovation. The latter is by far the worst assumed derivative of collaboration since effective engagement draws its strength not from compromise but from joint agreement. Even more crucial is that a significant benefit from collaboration is that the partners are empowered to challenge each other to achieve best outcomes.

I am sure others will have a perspective on this thinking and would welcome comments.

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