Stages of working together[edit | edit source]

Arthur Himmelman defines strategies for working together, of which the final stage is the most intensive.

  • Networking: Exchanging information about each other's activities, goals etc, for mutual benefit.
  • Coordinating: Exchanging information and altering activities for mutual benefit and to achieve a common purpose.
  • Cooperating: Exchanging information, altering activities, and sharing resources for mutual benefit and to achieve a common purpose.
  • Collaborating: Exchanging information, altering activities, sharing resources, and enhancing the capacity of another for mutual benefit and to achieve a common purpose.

This final stage of collaboration, as defined by Himmelman, is not always the most suitable goal. These stages representing increasing levels of investment of time, energy and other resources, with networking being easiest and quickest. Moving through these as stages, building up trust and mutual understanding is a way to achieve real collaboration.

Motivation for collaboration[edit | edit source]

While the theoretical motivations are obvious, collaboration in reality is often lacking. What motivations and conditions lead to actual collaboration in the real world?

The "Robbers Cave Experiment"W was a study in conflict and collaboration between groups: "Sherif's study... appeared to show how groups could be reconciled, how peace could flourish. The key was the focus on superordinate goals, those stretching beyond the boundaries of the group itself."[War, Peace and the Role of Power in Sherif’s Robbers Cave Experiment]

Foundations[edit | edit source]

Bruce Anderson[1] offers 8 "Foundations for Collaboration," which should be examined closely when seeking a significant collaboration that goes deeper than networking:

  1. There are clearly defined tasks
  2. Differing self-interests and values have been heard and understood
  3. Focused attention is given to increasing the long-term relational capacity of the participants.
  4. The resources, capacities, and gifts of each member are known.
  5. The group has control over the planning, methods used to achieve goals, and primary evaluation of success.
  6. There is intentional work done to enhance the capacity and outcomes for each group member.
  7. There is acknowledgement of past injustices, with action taken to correct imbalances and heal wounds.
  8. Each member has expanded their horizons beyond the goal of meeting their own needs and is in service to other group members.

Maintain perspective[edit | edit source]

Collaboration should generally not be an end in itself, but should support the mission. Be clear about your mission.

How far should we go?[edit | edit source]

The phrase radical collaboration is sometimes used to suggest that we need to put aside our self-interests for the greater good, especially where we face a serious threat.

As noted #Stages of working together above, Himmelman observes that the deepest kinds of collaboration may not be the most appropriate - so radical collaboration does not necessarily mean merging, and certainly doesn't mean working together on a specific task when coordinating the task and the relationship takes more effort than the task itself. At this level, Himmelman's level of "networking" makes more sense.

Maintain a focus on the mission. Move in gradual steps in deepening relationships, look for practical, achievable actions, and find the level appropriate to the relationship and the mission.

Group size[edit | edit source]

Group size is also significant - humans are naturally wired to work and socialize in groups of up to 150 (very approximately).[2]

Modern collaboration technologies, especially wikis, have made for effective collaboration in larger numbers - however, we should be warned that with these tools and opportunities come new kinds of threats - hence the need to guard online communities from spammers, vandals and trolls. It also warns us that bigger is not always better - collaborating locally, in smaller online communities, or in smaller subsets of online communities, may be appropriate options for some purposes.

Smaller groups, or smaller "cliques" within a group, can help humans feel comfortable and interested. This is an important part of staying engaged, and is an essential factor to consider by anyone wanting to build community.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Talking Right: the promise of collaboration by Bruce Anderson
  2. The actual number, "Dunbar's number," has been place at between 100 and 230, with a commonly used value of 150 - see Wikipedia:Dunbar's number. The exact number is less important than the realization that we don't naturally work with or socialize with groups of many hundreds of people.

External links[edit | edit source]

FA info icon.svgAngle down icon.svgPage data
Authors Chris Watkins
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Language English (en)
Related 0 subpages, 12 pages link here
Impact 425 page views
Created February 24, 2011 by Chris Watkins
Modified June 8, 2023 by Felipe Schenone
Cookies help us deliver our services. By using our services, you agree to our use of cookies.