Many business leaders confuse Information Sharing with Collaboration.
But they aren’t the same thing…more on that in a minute.
I was having a great discussion last night about collaboration. Granted, it was with my nine year old son as we headed to his baseball game but that doesn’t diminish the value of the conversation in the least.
He had asked me what the word “collaboration” meant. I gave him my own working definition and then, as my mother had taught and conditioned me, I told him to “look it up.”
For me, this meant I went to the family dictionary and/or volumes of encyclopedias.
For him, it meant he grabbed my phone and googled it.
He listened to my definition, grabbed by phone, Google’d “collaboration,” and read the first few bits and pieces about it online. I then asked him to tell me what he learned…how he would now define the word.
He offered, “collaboration means sharing information.”
Now, this may be a decent definition for a nine year old; indeed, I told him he did a good job summarizing what he had heard and read. However, I contemplated his simplistic definition for quite some time. (Honestly, there is quite a bit of time to think during a 2 1/4 hour little league baseball game. Egads, those games are painfully slow.) I realized, while deep in thought, that leaders get the two concepts confused too! They use the two concepts synonymously when, in fact, they aren’t the same. While the activities for both are similar, the purpose is different. As such, the strategies and methods are different and often, the participants themselves are different.
The purpose of an information sharing event is just that…to share, to inform, etc.
Information sharing can be one or two way communication. From a workforce perspective, the people involved are probably internal to the organization. (For example, a company may call a “town hall” style meeting to inform employees of some new health benefit options or to share information about rumors regarding a potential merger. If Q/A is actively done, the participants become part of the process inasmuch as they have the opportunity to clarify and/or dig a bit deeper into the information being shared.)
The purpose of a collaboration event is to produce or create something or to solve or fix something.
It is always two-way communication. And, because collaboration has a specific purpose, the participants are often intentionally selected and, from a workforce perspective, may likely be from outside the organization. (For example, if the purpose of a meeting is to solve a common customer experience problem, it is likely a customer representative outside of the organization will be part of the collaborative team AND he/she is not just there as a fly on the wall or to gain information. Instead, he/she is there to provide input and be an active part of the process.)
Both information sharing and collaboration events are good for a business!
If we do either of those things effectively, we will enjoy:
- Knowledgeable and informed employees
- Engaged employees (or stakeholders)
- Trusting employees (or stakeholders)
- Increased productivity
- Increased profitability
- Increased positive morale
- Decreased “do overs” or confusion
- Better teamwork
- Increased appreciation and understanding of differences and commonalities (and the pros and cons of that)
- Increased innovation and creativity
- Increased probability for balanced and sound decisions
- Increased learning and improvement opportunities (for all involved)
If these are just some of the benefits of effective information sharing and collaboration, shoot, we should all be doing them!
But how do we go about these things effectively?
Answering that question is gonna take quite a few words and I’d like to keep your mind from going as numb as mine did during my dear son’s baseball game. That being said, I’ll simply give you an overview now but I will write specific posts over the next week or so to drill deeper.
Information Sharing and Collaboration Done Right
- Identify the organization/team/committee culture regarding information sharing and collaboration (and assess if this is something you want to affect).
- Identify your purpose.
- Identify your participants, players and perspectives.
- Develop your strategy.
- Utilize your tools effectively.
- Circle back and check in on purpose (and redo or otherwise take corrective action if you missed).
In my next post, I’ll start with Information Sharing and I’ll drill down into some of the above suggestions. Until then, please be patient…I will be too…my son has karate AND baseball this evening!