Merriam Webster defines collaboration as “the action of working with someone to produce or create something.” When stated as such, the act itself sounds relatively simple to achieve, yet most of us struggle in situations where we are expected to work together to accomplish a common goal. We see this everywhere . . . in the workplace, in our homes, our communities, our leisure activities and entertainment and in our government.
I applaud our school system for recognizing collaboration as imperative to the learning process by including it in the curriculum, but these skills are not learned in isolation or through simulated, contrived tasks. Collaboration is learned in situations where students are motivated by an authentic purpose to accomplish a common goal. Collaboration is not a single skill. It encompasses a distinct set of skills, each one essential in contributing to the effectiveness of the group effort.
Collaboration has been our company’s greatest challenge this year. As a result of our individual and collective setbacks, we have a newfound appreciation for working together. Recently, I asked the company, “What is needed to work collaboratively? What must we do? What skills do we need?” In small groups the students recorded their reflections. These thoughts will serve all of us as we continue to improve the art of collaboration.