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Lend me your mind's ear — communications and portals

Voices in harmony

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Collaborating:

Strength in harmonics

Like voices harmonizing, collaboration between individuals can be a truly beautiful thing. If you’ve ever worked in a group, (and who hasn’t?), you know that every group member in a shared initiative will have individual ideas. Why is this a good thing? Because when we’re involved in critical thinking processes, each voice is distinctive and adds to the harmony of the whole just as each new voice adds a separate dimension when many singers join together in song.

Think of each voice as a new thought process. With each new voice, the process will change. Individuals add ideas. Ideas combine like voices in song. Combined ideas create a brand new idea. If you will indulge my metaphor, these voices raised in song become a chorus of ideas coalescing into one new idea. This new creation benefits from a diversity of thought.

Three aspects of the collaborative process that are crucial to success

Listening

You’ve heard it a thousand times before but listening may be the most important element in communication. What is important to communication is important to collaboration. If we don’t take the time to understand feelings and opinions or the thought processes that lead to their creation then how can we constructively criticize? There must be structured time to hear participants opinions. A great danger to any collaborative effort is an individual monopolizing all of the group’s time but unaware that the rest of the group must be respected in order for a truly cooperative result.

Focus and intent

Successful collaboration relies on a team mission. The mission must be properly outlined and all members of the team must commit to success. Such commitment doesn’t depend on thinking what the group is thinking, but it does depend on a commitment to reaching an end result. The team will obtain its goal if, going in, all members of the team feel engagement and a united sense of purpose. The goal should be stated and the facilitator of the group must walk the tightrope between keeping the group focused on achieving the goal while at the same time not being so invasive that he or she obliterates the group’s collaborative strengths.

Respect

Collaboration requires a bit of a thick skin. After all, challenging ideas are part of the process. However, mutual respect is a huge part of any collaborative effort. Each member should be able to promote ideas diplomatically and without offense. A sincere respect for one’s colleagues, keeping their opinions and feelings in mind, yet pushing the process forward by offering the individual ideas that provide the “brainpool” are essential.

Great leaders are always very aware of how important respect is to all processes.

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