Collaboration has pretty much hit buzzword status. But make no mistake: The hype is real.

Take a glance at any business, tech, design, advertising, or gardening (yes, really) publication and you’ll see collaboration lauded as the new table stakes for high performance.

And it’s true.

But it’s also a little misleading, because collaboration – when it’s done right – isn’t easy. It’s ugly and uncomfortable. It comes with inevitable angst in the forms of navigating group dynamics, embracing the unknown, and butting heads with the people who might sign your paychecks. Yikes.

Miscollaboration

In order to avoid the discomfort of doing collaboration right, most people just opt to do it…well, wrong. They get 2 or 3 like-minded (maybe creative, maybe not so much) people in a room for an hour, riff on ideas, and call it a day. Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, great creative solutions never come from this type of “collaboration”. Nothing unexpected, nothing innovative. You gotta get a little uncomfortable. Shake off the complacency and pull your brain out of its default thinking patterns. Here’s what you need to know:

Communication

The way teams communicate is a separate piece in itself, but for now suffice it to say that really smart folks at MIT’s Human Dynamics lab have dedicated tons of time to studying team communication and collaboration.

There’s deeply detailed & valuable info in their studies, so we’d recommend hearing about it from them. But the upshot is that effective collaboration means everyone takes turns talking and listening, you seek outside opinions early & often, and communication is direct — not just through the group leader/facilitator.

Killer Questions

We’re big fans of stress-testing ideas, and we do it with Killer Questions — the tough challenges nobody wants to hear because they force us to face the ugly parts of the thing we love and picture how it could fail. But you can’t defend against failure if you aren’t prepared for it, so everyone on your team should feel empowered to raise red flags when they see ‘em.

High-Contrast Collaboration

Collaboration really only works to its full potential if you have diversity. At 20nine, we practice High-Contrast Collaboration – kind of like regular collaboration on steroids – wherein we bring wildly different people together to find meaningful, unexpected solutions to big, messy problems.

Your team needs to learn, practice, and use basic collaboration skills everyday.

But you shouldn’t just stop there. Up the ante. Get your hands dirty. Push yourselves. High-Contrast Collaboration is really something special, and we’ve become experts at showing newbies how to do it right. Interested? Hit us up!

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