Levels of Collaboration

Dilts distinguishes three levels of collaboration. The first he terms degenerative collaboration. When collaboration includes high levels of conflict and unnecessary bureaucratic behaviour, productivity can be less effective than the unorganized efforts of individuals. The output of the group as a whole is less than if the individuals were working separately and in isolation.

Basic collaboration, the second level, occurs in most of our work places. Individuals are organized into teams where different roles work together in a division of labour scenario. Individuals contribute as expected without adding anything new into the mix. The output of the group as a whole is roughly similar to what individuals would achieve if they were working on their own. The benefit lies in the organization of different tasks and roles to create a collective product.
Volunteerism would be an example of basic collaboration. Individuals contribute in an assigned role to a group effort. The directive for the project remains in the control of the sponsoring person or organization.

The third level of collaboration recognized by Dilts is generative collaboration where the output of the whole is much greater than the sum of individual efforts. Something new is created. Each individual has a unique map of the world. Bringing these maps together results in a map that is greater than any of the contributing maps.

Matrix management structures occur in the complex knowledge driven organizations where expert leaders form a team of peers of different specialities. They are characterized as having no leadership hierarchy. In scrums a database specialist, a design engineer and business analyst all contribute from their specialities to resolve the presenting scenario. The combination of expertise creates a superior solution to a solution generated by any one individual. A certain degree of generative collaboration is engendered in these teams. At the same time the role structure of these organizations constrains the degree of generic collaboration. The expert roles define the kind of collaboration allowed.

Entrepreneurs coming together to discover Win/Win solutions are examples where the collaboration is not restricted by roles. In these scenarios the attitude is not so much about getting a share of the pie but about increasing the size of the pie.
Each of us with our unique maps of the world approaches an attracting project with a different perspective or vision. An initial vision is only made richer as different perspectives are applied to it. Acute generative collaboration is about sharing vision.

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