Collaboration Is Bad Business

A recent article in Inc. magazine (“Collaboration Kills Creativity, According to Science”) highlights the challenge of collaboration. The gist of it is that if you want creative ideas, don’t have people collaborate, let them come up with them on their own. For example, I just read Walter Isaacson’s book on Einstein, and it turns out that it wasn’t Al and his buddies at the barbershop who cooked up E = mc2, just Al flying solo.

Perhaps you’ve participated in “brainstorming” sessions that highlighted the challenge of collaboration gone awry. The most powerful voice often dominates, and the quiet but brilliant “participant” stays mute, wondering why she got out of bed that morning. As an old boss once said to me, “Committees are dark alleys that good ideas go down to be strangled to death!”

So does this mean it’s every man for himself? Of course not!

Folks must execute company ideas, or they’re just a daydream. And people most strongly execute ideas that they participated in developing. This requires collaboration, which also enhances coordination.

Collaboration doesn’t work without a strong leader or facilitator. When I say “strong,” I don’t mean someone forcing their ideas on the group, but rather someone strong enough to enforce good process. Moderating loudmouths, pulling good ideas out of the meek, staying focused on the objective, gaining commitment, anticipating resistance and moving ideas toward action — those are the activities of the leader who realizes that collaboration is a must for good ideas to reach maturity and turn into action rather than daydreams.

So collaboration is bad business, but only without good leadership.

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