Here in the coworking community, we tout collaboration as both a value and a benefit. I’ve even heard coworking spaces called “collaborative workspaces.”
We know one thing for sure: when folks are collaborating, good things happen. And yet the reality of collaboration is hard. Here’s why:
It is tedious and time-consuming.
True collaboration requires us to spend time listening– both to ideas we love, and to a bunch of annoying, useless, disagreeable, and otherwise unappealing garbage.
Maybe that was a little harsh, but you get the idea. Collaboration is often synonymous with tedious meetings that seemingly go nowhere, leaving us to wonder why we didn’t just spend the time scheduling a bunch of Tweets or cleaning our inbox.
Truth number one: collaboration is hard work. And yet, it is important to be at the table for certain tedious meetings. For things that truly matter to us, we must put in the time to listen. (Witness our currently polarized nation and government: are people truly listening to each other?)
And no, I’m not saying that you need to spend 20 hours a week in meetings to be “collaborative.” What I’m saying is that when a project truly matters, be patient for the outcome to unfold. When diverse parties and stakeholders are involved, the process will be lengthy, but the final output will be more meaningful.
It requires trust.
Remember when you hated group projects in school because you always ended up doing all the work? (I do.) You’re going to have to let go of that if you really want to collaborate. You will have to trust in your team, and trust in the process.
Trust, in the age of Russian bots and fake news, is hard to come by. And that’s why working with people from diverse viewpoints and backgrounds is so unbelievably important.
Here’s one thing you can trust for sure: even if your collaborative project flops, what you learn in the process will be worth its weight in gold.
It doesn’t produce immediate ROI.
It can be incredibly hard to justify something that is (1) time-consuming and tedious and (2) requires high levels of trust. As a small business owner with both time and money limitations, I have to think really long and hard about the meetings I attend and the committees I join. And yet, I know that my business is thriving due to a certain willingness to meet, connect, and listen.
It’s hard to trace success from specific transactions. The process is typically more organic, meandering, and nuanced. So the challenge for collaborative efforts is to find new ways to define and measure outcomes and worth.
I can’t tell you that joining a coworking space will instantly make your life instantly “collaborative.”
I can tell you, with certainty, that collaboration is damn hard.
I can also tell you that the hardest things are often the most worthwhile things in life.
And remember, the great challenges of our time will be solved only if the parties at the table reflect the complexity and diversity of those very challenges.
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