Collaboration: In its Essence

Teamwork is something I first learned when I was a toddler. I was encouraged by my teacher then to work with other children to attain a simple goal. In the succeeding years, my mentors were giving tasks that require me to work on groups. That time I realized that I do not need just to adjust with the varying personalities in the group, exhibit leadership skills but I also need to accept the fact that I can not control the whole group as I wanted it to be. In my early years, my first disappointments involved working with others, rather than being alone. So I got the impression that I am best alone, as long as I persevere to achieve a goal, no matter what it takes, even assuming the responsibility of the supposed tasks of others. In the process, I became very effective in my way, while others were happy reaping the benefit of the whole team. I did not care of others are passive, what I am after was the ultimate result. There I succeeded. However, everything changed when I lived in Norway.

The Norwegian concept at work is to collaborate with others, while assuming responsibility of a task that forms part of the whole. Whatever task it is, one should take responsibility as this could affect not just the outcome, but also how others could their own tasks. A mistake of one would influence how others are accomplishing. It is important to know what one is doing, but as well as think of how others are performing, and eventually lend a hand if possible. There are some disadvantages with this, such that responsibility is diluted to many, such that no one dares to take the risk of assuming bigger tasks and even take major decisions. Unlike the Filipino way where one needs to do everything, decide appropriately and think of the results, no matter how others are contributing. These two conflicting perspective of collaboration are what drove me to examine the concept of collaboration in its essence. This is the focus of this blogpost.

An interpersonal phenomenon

No man is an island. Everyone has to recognize the importance of having one another. This is perhaps why teacher creates group activities in school to aid in initiating social interactions of different personalities, with the assumption that everyone would learn from each other. Using this approach, there are two purposes: learning and interaction. However, one should be clear that primarily group activities are designed for interaction, to test one's tolerance, inculcate the value of respecting differences and understanding. Learning is just a by-product of the process, but it is not the goal. The same happens at work. One does not learn from each other, because every individual merely shares what he or she has learn individually, but that does not automatically mean learning of the other. By sharing, one listens and accepts what the other is attempting to say. Without that openness towards others, ideas and concepts are not understood, which will eventually result to something significantly.

Involves an action

Every collaboration requires an action. It means one can not collaborate passively. One has to do something. However, if we would quantify that "something", then that is where cultures vary. In the Norwegian society, something means an existence of something other than nothing. A small act is acceptable, and accomplishment of such deserves appreciation. In the Philippine society, something means something crucial and integral for the accomplishment of something. It means that if the whole group fails then the contribution of every participant is examined according to its significance to the failure. The same way during success, those who contributed less are ignored, while those who gave more effort are hailed. Which interpretation is better is something I will leave to the readers. Personally, I believe there should be a balance. By saying that one should see the direct impact of task to the outcome, no matter how small the task is. If the task is unuseful, then the person doing it will lose the motivation to continue, unless the person himself or herself failed by chance, naiveness or weak comprehension to recognize the usefulness of action.

Gears toward a positive result

The most important goal of collaboration is outcome. One can not just interact with others without accomplishing something. One can not just to unceasingly do a task without knowing the purpose of it, and at least partly seeing results as a product of that action. Speaking of result is not getting something from the task personally, but looking at a macroscopic perspective. This means that if one is paid for a fruitless work, and is still expected to continue, one should not consider salary as a result. It is merely getting paid for doing something. It does not connote being paid because of a good result. Good results are measured from the target recipients of the collaborative action. One does not collaborate just because it is nice to talk with others and dp something, but one should see something in the end. If there is nothing at the end, one may either reexamine the existing interpersonal connections within the group, their actions, eventually stop what the group is doing, or even consider scrapping collaboration. Afterall, when people do not go well together, it might be better to divide the one task in several tasks, not involving collaboration, but teaching each the value of taking responsibility.

I am writing this blogpost after a very tiring work day. I felt irritated with my colleague, who seems contented with what she is doing, without thinking of others. It seems she interprets interpersonal connections as social actions in reference to her, rather than towards a result. However, people vary. People can not easily examine an event in its essence. I have a problem with it, just like how I struggle to collaborate well with others as well. I still work best alone, but I guess getting better on the aspect of collaboration. This blogpost may serve as a self-awareness to enhance my way of dealing with others.


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