Despite the fact that synergy brought up by collaboration is unmatched by sum of individual work, the majority tend to work in silos and limit their interaction with co-workers to reporting or receiving information rather than cooking up something together. The excessive time and energy consumed in collaborative work besides the distraction and conflicts in meeting rooms are definitely the key reasons why collaboration is not our first resort when there is a chance to get it done individually. These hurdles are caused by the lack of a certain skill-set which some authors refer to as CQ or collaborative intelligence. CQ is mainly about understanding others’ belief sets, think patterns and communication preferences so that we can interpret their other ways of doing business and interact constructively with them.
Our brains naturally presume that the assumptions we hold are universal and that everyone else should be considering them equally as common sense. So for instance if your see that the ultimate goal of a business is generating the maximum profits, you will have hard time collaborating with another partner who sees that changing the industry comes first before profits. And since each of you cannot visualize how the other does not have the same common sense, discussions tend to fall in a black hole only because the underlying assumptions are completely heterogeneous. To make it work out, collaborators should start with spotting out their major opposing objectives or assumptions on how things work. Afterwards, they should be discussing these differences in order to reach a common ground, whether by fusion or sequential give ups. If they failed to bridge the gap, they should pursue another track of cooperation where their belief sets are less contradicting or just work in a silo and compile their work at a neutral third party.
The way our minds process information is as unique, as a fingerprint. Our education, lifestyle, interests and business nature shape the way we think, approach problems and perform in our jobs. This is one of their key reasons why some sort of teamwork turns out painful and time consuming when each member perceives the problem from a different angle and sees his vantage point as the most significant. For instance, an R&D engineer, while discussing a product development plan with a marketer, tends to focus on the procedural side represented in technicalities and production constraints, while the marketer’s attention is dragged into innovational and relational dimensions represented in customer’s experience and branding. If each side does not understand the others’ priorities (belief sets) or think patterns, reaching an agreement on a conclusion or decision would be quite exhausting, if not unlikely.
Since the think pattern is the cognitive feature that defines our interpretations and decisions, a communication preference is the information sharing style by which we prefer to receive input and share output. Moreover, presuming that there is a standard communication style which should apply to everyone in all contexts ends up with misjudging others’ level of interest and interaction. Imagine two people with similar think patterns and belief sets. The first communicates verbally very well and prefers verbal input via phone calls and meetings rather than written input. While the second is more visual and tends to space out during long talks and prefers doing business via emails and structured reports. These two distinct preferences are almost in every company, and despite their similarities, they find hardship in working together only because they speak two different communicational languages. If only each of them accepted the other’s differences and decided to give up his way each time he is conveying a message, the impossible collaboration would be made real.
The pivot of collaboration is fusing – not just sharing, summing up or trying to conquer the other’s mindscape. So, unless you are willing to give up some of your assumptions or at least twist them a bit, your CQ will remain too low to make a collaborative engagement work out.