7 Keys to a Successful Collaboration

The business annals are filled with examples of successful (and not so successful) collaborations. Many of the innovations we take for granted today are the result of individuals and organizations coming together to work toward a common goal. If your company is considering a collaboration (even internally between departments), here are a few tips to keep in mind:

* Start with a common goal, and make sure all parties understand it. Outline your plan, and decide up front who will be responsible for which aspects of the project.
* Spell out your expectations, key deliverables, and a timetable for completion. That way, everyone will start on the same page.
* Establish trust… and work to maintain it. Without trust, information will not flow freely, and if that happens, the collaboration is doomed. Starting with common goals and expectations (see above) will go a long way to building trust, as will delivering on the promises you make.
* Of course, building trust doesn’t mean compromising security. When collaborating with another company or with individuals outside your company, share only information that is vital to the project at hand. This will serve two purposes: First, it will save time that could be wasted getting into details that are irrelevant to the work. Second, it will eliminate leaks that could damage one collaborator’s position.
* Along those same lines, have all parties involved sign non-disclosure agreements, as a legal safeguard to ensure everyone has the project’s best interest in mind. Obviously, this is not necessary for internal collaborations, but when working with outside parties, an NDA can keep everybody protected.
* Let each collaborator focus on their strengths. In successful collaborations, each party brings its own strengths and skillsets to the table. Trouble starts when egos get wounded and collaborators are unwilling to give up control of certain aspects of the project. A well-defined and documented plan, like the one outlined above, will help.
* Keep in close touch with your superiors. If you’re representing your company in a collaboration, let your supervisors know how things are progressing. Keep them in the loop, so they can step in when necessary to help ensure the project remains on track.

What other tips or examples do you have to share from your own collaborations or from collaborations you’ve seen? I’d love to read about them in the comments below.

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