Effective collaborators: Skills and dispositions

An effective collaborator draws on many skills and dispositions, such as the qualities listed below. We can cultivate these skills and dispositions through participation in suitable activities and through creative habits, such as always taking stock of what we did (and did not do) and planning ways to improve.1 Participants who cultivate themselves as collaborators can bring their skills and dispositions to any collaboration (or workshop, group process, etc.) they get involved in. To the extent that participants in a collaboration have been cultivating themselves as collaborators, the people organizing or facilitating the collaboration can expect their efforts to be more fruitful.

(Indeed, the list below provides not only a checklist of qualities for cultivating collaborators, but also a checklist of conditions for organizers and facilitators to foster when running a collaborative process. Of course, we all find ourselves in some groups or teams where these conditions are not fostered. It is easy to fret over the shortcomings of our team leaders and colleagues. However, an antidote to fretting is for us to affirm the qualities below in our personal sphere and, more generally, to (re)claim space for our own creative pursuits.)

The list groups the qualities under four headings—Respect, Risk, Revelation, Re-engagement. (Note: An item under one heading may well contribute to the other headings.) The thinking behind these headings is, in brief, that a well-facilitated collaborative process keeps us listening actively to each other, fostering mutual Respect that allows Risks to be taken, elicits more insights than any one person came in with (Revelation), and engages us in carrying out and carrying on the plans we develop (Re-engagement). What we come out with is very likely to be larger and more durable than what any one person came in with; the more so, the more voices that are brought out by the process.

Respect—Effective participants in a collaboration (or workshop, groups process, etc.) draw on the skill or disposition to:
In all these ways, Respect is not simply stated as a ground rule, but is enacted.

Risk—Respect creates a space with enough safety for participants to take risks of various kinds. In particular, we:
(In all these aspects of risk-taking, collaborations benefit from the participation of "veterans" who have participated in collaborations conducted along similar lines.)

Revelation—A space is created by respect and risk in which participants bring thoughts and feelings to the surface so as to articulate, clarify and complicate our ideas, relationships, and aspirations—in short, our identities. (Recall the principle that we know more than we are, at first, prepared to acknowledge.) Our own self-understandings are extended when we are respectful partners with others in the risky business of self-exploration. In this spirit, we:

Re-engagement— Respect, risk, and revelation combine so that participants' gears are re-engaged (to use a machine metaphor), allowing us to mobilize and sustain quite a high level of energy during the collaboration. But re-engagement goes beyond an individual's enhanced enthusiasm. It is a collective or emergent result of the activities that bring people who have generative differences into meaningful interactions that can catalyze transformations. In other words, meaningful social engagement and opportunities for personal introspection contribute to participants discovering new possibilities for work with others on ideas they brought to the collaboration.
(Of course, what we state in the end-of-collaboration evaluations cannot show that we will follow through on intentions to stay connected or to make shifts in our own projects and work relations. A need or desire for periodic re-charging of our ideas and intentions is evident when past participants return to subsequent collaborations.)

1. In this spirit, the activities of workshop 2 led participants into using some tools and processes, making connections with each other, and formulating contributions to the topic of cultivating ourselves as collaborators. To reinforce and extend this experiential learning students should:
2. Autobiographical introductions, Taking a turn responding to a common reading
3. Autobiographical introductions
4. Dialogue process
5. Go arounds
6. Dialogue process
7. Freewriting; Daily writing
8. Identifying of themes from Autobiographical introductions, Roles for small group work, Every person having the role of synthesizing in small group work
9. Initial hopes, Check-in, Autobiographical introductions
10. Taking a turn responding to a common reading
11. Dialogue process, Check-ins
12. Office Hours
13. Office Hours
14. Office hours
15. Dialogue process
16. Future Ideal Retrospective
17. Critical Incident Questionnaire, Closing circle plus-delta