Fireside Chat: Collaboration – A Real Life Experience and Key Skill

There is always something special about the first time you do something. It is exciting, it is scary, it can be rewarding, and there are challenges.

However, in the end there is growth, expansion, and most of all the experience of creating. It is empowering! That is how I feel about collaboration; it can be all those things including fun.

Collaboration is like exploring the next frontier and you get to do it with colleagues, friends, or a group. Like when you get bold enough, take a tour, and do not know anyone in the group and the tour ends up being fantastic and you made new friends.

So, what is it about collaboration that is exciting? Collaboration allows you to see amazing possibilities.  It provides the environment in which you can think BOLDLY about the problem or issue. It is where possibilities begin. It is where we get to answer without limitations, “What if…”

Exploring the unknown and having other minds to add to the depth and expansiveness of the exploration, the unknowing. It is the unknowing and creating new knowledge that is exciting, rewarding and fun. Exploring options, “feeding” off others ideas, and seeing possibilities where there was none. Sharing and consoling when you fail or hit a dead end and regrouping to continue on a new path.

Oh, yes it can be scary. Like how am I going to relate to all the different folks in my group? What if my ideas are not the best? It is scary that I do not have all the answers and I think everyone else in my group thinks I do or should.  Can I really collaborate?  Will it be easier just to do this project myself and not rely on my teammates? What if we do not listen well to each other how will that affect our collaboration? Perhaps you can think of other scary aspects of collaboration that you could add to my list.

What I know is this, collaboration is valued.  From my experience as a graduate student, industry member, faculty member, administrator, and neighborhood/community member, the benefits, outcomes, and rewards of collaboration outweigh the scariness or challenges.

Let me give you a real life example. When I was president of our neighborhood association, we had situation where a developer wanted to build a project that would significantly diminish the safety and quality of life for our families especially our children.

Now I could have taken this on myself, but it was through inviting the neighborhood to form a collaborative group that we were able to reach an outcome that benefited our community more than, if I tried to solve the problem alone. Through that collaborative process, I learned and gained skills that I use today and those skills have helped me to advance in my career.

I learned that listening and really understanding my group members was critical. What were their issues, what were their solutions, what were their considerations? Respecting different viewpoints even though the ideas did not always agree with mine was so important to our collaborative process.

Let me tell you, everyone had a viewpoint on what we should do! I gained valuable experience in honing my interpersonal, organizational, and leadership skills that are highly valued in the job market and I use every day.

I also learned a valuable lesson. The importance of patience. Not everyone reaches a solution or comes to consensus at the same time. Some take longer in the information gathering stage than others. It is important for the collaborative group to allow for that because in the end, the outcome will be stronger.

There are many challenges to collaboration. In the end, it is so worth it. The impact of what collaboration can create is more than I could ever dream by myself.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller

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drmgrasso

My experience as the chief academic officer and administrator charged with providing vision and leadership in planning, guiding, and coordinating all aspects of graduate education from admission through graduation at two major research universities provides the foundation for our fireside chats.

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