Collaboration Is as Easy as Knowing Your ABC's

In my book, FLAT ARMY: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization (Wiley) I define collaboration as follows:

The unfettered allowance and encouragement of employees to both contribute and consume knowledge, insight or ideas with any direct relationship via professional or personal networks to achieve an outcome.

2014-09-10-pontefract_ABCs_of_collaboration_titles.jpgSadly, many leaders and employees simply don't know how to be collaborative. They'd rather hoard documents on their hard drive, take credit for ideas, close their office door and pretend no one else is around or complete an action without ever asking anyone for input or advice.

And we wonder why employee engagement levels remain so anemic in today's organizations.

There is hope, however, and perhaps that comes in the form of adding to the definition of collaboration.

If we were to elaborate on the definition, we might even suggest there are 'The ABC's of Collaboration':

Accessible - Be approachable & available to your team & those who expect your insight & opinions.
Benevolent - To be disposed and to want to do good is a key part of being collaborative with others.
Challenge - Groupthink does not equal collaboration. To challenge is to professionally debate by collaborating.
Deliver - Be free from restraint while getting things done. Recognize that the team must demonstrate results.
Embrace - To accept willingly. To well avail one's self to an opportunity, to an idea and to those in the network.
Fluid - Not being fixed to a given mindset, but to readily change opinion as the situation warrants.
Graft - To attach or incorporate new ideas, concepts and thoughts into old and dated problems.
Hello - Is there anything more collaborative than saying hello? Try it next time in the elevator.
Impart - To be collaborative is to disclose and make known both your knowledge and your perspective.
Jest - Having fun, finding humour and generally having a good time can help all to become more collaborative.
Kudos - To honour, celebrate & congratulate others for their contributions is as collaborative as it gets.
Legitimate - Always be genuine and trustworthy. Legitimacy in character is akin to authenticity.
2014-09-10-pontefract_ABCs_of_collaboration_definitions.jpgMarinate - To properly collaborate one might marinate in the moment. Pause before acting prematurely.
Noegenesis - The production of new knowledge from sensory or intellectual experience will aid others, always.
Open - The collaboration gold mine: to be forthright, impartial, exposed & available to people, ideas & the unknown.
Prepared - Being ready to contribute. Being willing to compose. Being apt to create.
Quietude - To effectively collaborate, one must enter into a state of calmness, serenity & peacefulness.
Reflective - It's incumbent upon you to mirror the collaborative spirit of others & to be thoughtful doing so.
Social - From the Latin socialis 'allied' & socius 'friend', to be social is to build a collaborative network.
Technology - The technology train left the station long ago. If you're not on it, you run the risk of alienating everyone.
Urgency - A level of persistence & earnestness will ensure others know you don't subscribe to "all talk no action".
Voice - "If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, & that voice will be silenced."
Warn - Cautionary advice & a proactive heads up to those in your collaborative circles is noble, smart & urged.
Xenodochial - One must accept that collaboration should happen with strangers too. Collaboration knows no borders.
Yearn - One must desire to be collaborative with others. To yearn is to feel collaboration is an absolute necessity.
Zeal - Demonstrate vigour & enthusiasm as you collaborate and others will judge you as positive & disarming.

Note: there will be a spelling test on Friday. Good luck.

PS. Click the images above for full-sized versions. (download for free too and share with your friends - that's what collaborating is all about)


Dan Pontefract is the author of FLAT ARMY: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization and is Chief Envisioner at TELUS Transformation Office where he helps organizations with corporate culture, connected leadership and employee engagement. He's currently at work on his next book.

Reach him at or on Twitter @dpontefract