June 23, 2014
flat army

The ABC’s of Collaboration

(Editor’s Note: scroll down for graphical versions)

In my book, Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization I define collaboration as follows:

The unfettered allowance and encouragement of employees to both contribute and consume knowledge, insight or ideas with any direct relationship via professional or personal networks to achieve an outcome.

If we were to elaborate on the definition, we might suggest there are ‘The ABC’s of Collaboration’:

  • Accessible – Be approachable & available to your team & those who expect your insight & opinions.
  • Benevolent – To be disposed and to want to do good is a key part of being collaborative with others.
  • Challenge – Groupthink does not equal collaboration. To challenge is to professionally debate by collaborating.
  • Deliver – Be free from restraint while getting things done. Recognize that the team must demonstrate results.
  • Embrace – To accept willingly. To well avail one’s self to an opportunity, to an idea and to those in the network.
  • Fluid – Not being fixed to a given mindset, but to readily change opinion as the situation warrants.
  • Graft – To attach or incorporate new ideas, concepts and thoughts into old and dated problems.
  • Hello – Is there anything more collaborative than saying hello? Try it next time in the elevator.
  • Impart – To be collaborative is to disclose and make known both your knowledge and your perspective.
  • Jest – Having fun, finding humour and generally having a good time can help all to become more collaborative.
  • Kudos – To honour, celebrate & congratulate others for their contributions is as collaborative as it gets.
  • Legitimate – Always be genuine and trustworthy. Legitimacy in character is akin to authenticity.
  • Marinate – To properly collaborate one might marinate in the moment. Pause before acting prematurely.
  • Noegenesis – The production of new knowledge from sensory or intellectual experience will aid others, always.
  • Open – The collaboration gold mine: to be forthright, impartial, exposed & available to people, ideas & the unknown.
  • Prepared – Being ready to contribute. Being willing to compose. Being apt to create.
  • Quietude – To effectively collaborate, one must enter into a state of calmness, serenity & peacefulness.
  • Reflective – It’s incumbent upon you to mirror the collaborative spirit of others & to be thoughtful doing so.
  • Social – From the Latin socialis ‘allied’ & socius ‘friend’, to be social is to build a collaborative network.
  • Technology – The technology train left the station long ago. If you’re not on it, you run the risk of alienating everyone.
  • Urgency – A level of persistence & earnestness will ensure others know you don’t subscribe to “all talk no action”.
  • Voice – “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, & that voice will be silenced.”
  • Warn – Cautionary advice & a proactive heads up to those in your collaborative circles is noble, smart & urged.
  • Xenodochial – One must accept that collaboration should happen with strangers too. Collaboration knows no borders.
  • Yearn – One must desire to be collaborative with others. To yearn is to feel collaboration is an absolute necessity.
  • Zeal – Demonstrate vigour & enthusiasm as you collaborate and others will judge you as positive & disarming.

There are two infographic versions of “The ABC’s of Collaboration” found below. Feel free to use them.

You can buy Flat Army here.

Dan Pontefract The ABC's of Collaboration

Dan Pontefract The ABC's of Collaboration

9 Replies to “The ABC’s of Collaboration”

  1. Dan,

    Great stuff as always – love the graphic versions. I did have a question though about the definition of collaboration. I should go get my copy of your book and look myself but felt like having a dialog here 🙂 – is your point then that collaboration ONLY occurs when there is allowance and encouragement by the organization or that for the organization to embrace the idea of a Flat Army it MUST my allowance and encourage?


    1. Hey mate, appreciate you stopping by.

      For me, collaboration truly occurs when the ‘leader’ allows it to happen. Sure, collaboration can occur without a leader’s (or the organization’s) allowance … but there will always be self or team-doubt that they’re being effective.

      When the top brass and thus the organizational leadership model puts collaboration front and center, I believe overall employee engagement, organizational productivity and then customer satisfaction/revenues will soar.

      Make sense?

      1. You always make sense 🙂

        I am thinking though that without that leadership blessing, maybe what the self or team will feel is doubt but not so much about their effectiveness but whether or not the organization will appreciate/.adopt their efforts and if they’ll be allowed to continue. I think that cognitive dissonance between what employees feel who start collaborative projects sub rosa in order to be more effective and the presence or absence of the blessings of leadership is a powerful dynamic.

        Totally agree with you that if collaboration is organizationally blessed then then sky is the limit – I think organizations also fail to appreciate the downside – that squashing grass roots efforts at collaboration won’t just put people back to a status quo but will actually set them back further.

  2. Here Here Mark.

    Perhaps, in the context of a team’s collaborative DNA and the goals/actions they are achieving — it can be successful if the goal/action is team-based versus needing the organization’s approval or inclusion.

    Eg. A team is highly collaborative for a project that doesn’t affect the organization. Let’s call it a team action. Let’s specifically say it’s an action that helps drive a new feature on a widget of some sort. It doesn’t impact the rest of the org, per se. If the team (and that leader) have created an open and collaborative culture, everyone wins on the team. But … if the team is working on a project or action (let’s say it’s the development of an entirely new product) and the organization is not collaborative (or conversely it is very hierarchical, territorially, absent, apathetic, etc.) the likelihood of success for the “new product” lessens because the entire organization isn’t collaborative.

    How’s that?

  3. Love your ABCs of collaboration I would like to use them on an internal website of ours. I will, of course, give you all credit. Please confirm your invitation to share includes this use. Thank you.

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