How to Initiate Collaboration

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In my previous post, I wrote about 30 benefits that can result from a successful collaboration. There are ways just about everyone can collaborate, and it can take many different forms. Some of which include:

  • Mentoring programs
  • Team-based work
  • Joint projects
  • Volunteering
  • Referrals

Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to find a collaborative opportunity that really resonates with you, one that you can commit fully to. Or maybe you have your own challenge, problem or opportunity you want to address. In those cases, initiating collaboration may be the best solution.

Here is a look at seven high-level steps to developing, launching and managing a collaborative opportunity.

Outline the Objectives in Writing

Every collaboration needs a purpose, and the more specific that purpose is, the more focused the initiative will be. Well before lining up your collaborators, get clear on what you hope to accomplish, when you want to accomplish it and how you envision doing it.

These factors may change once you bring others on-board, but you can’t move in the right direction until you fully think through the objective. And having the plan in writing makes it much easier to get everyone on the same page.

Identify Potential Collaborators

You probably already have people in mind who you think will create a well-rounded collaborative team. But even if this is the case, make a list the skills and experience that will be needed. Separating the actual people from the talent they bring to the table will help you make sure you have all of the bases covered.

Make Your Pitch

Everyone is busy and working with limited time, so you have to make a compelling argument as to why someone would want to dedicate time to your project. Approach potential collaborators as you would a potential client; share as much information about the objectives as you can, and make it clear what they stand to gain from their involvement.

Develop a Plan for Communicating and Following Up

Once your team is assembled, it’s important to make introductions and provide a complete picture about who is involved and who has what responsibilities. This is especially important if your team will be collaborating virtually.

Identify how you will share files, track tasks and milestones, and communicate with each other. It’s also a good idea to schedule standing meetings on a regular basis to keep everyone “in the know,” and to create a system for following up with each other when someone falls behind.

Come Up with a Timeline

It’s important to create a timeline as a team, so each member has a say in what will take place and by when. Not only does this help the collaborators develop a sense of ownership in the project, but it also gives each team member a chance to voice timeline concerns and then commit to specific deliverable dates.

Be Flexible

As the collaboration gets underway, availability, responsibilities and interest levels may change. You will need to have a plan for covering or replacing anyone who drops out to keep the collaboration moving. You also may want to review the project at regular intervals to determine what isn’t working or what isn’t working as well as it could be and revamp the process to make it smoother.

Celebrate Your Success

At the end of the collaboration, even if things didn’t work out exactly as you envisioned, make sure you take time to celebrate what you collectively accomplished. Recognize each collaborator for their contributions publicly.  Then, take a short break, gather the lessons you learned and get ready for your next collaboration.

Thumbnail credit: jana_koll

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