Many people use the word “Collaboration” to describe their business or marketing partnerships, but how many of these are actual collaborations? Author and marketer Lynn Serafinn talks about the 4 essential qualities of the Grace of Collaboration.
In my book The 7 Graces of Marketing, Collaboration is Grace number 7. Collaboration is the antidote to the old-school business and marketing practice of “Competition”, which I cite in the book as the seventh “Deadly Sin” of marketing.
Especially since the rise of social media, the word “collaboration” has become a common part of our modern jargon. Literally the word means “to work together”, but I believe many people do not fully understand what collaboration actually is. In this article I want to highlight some of the misconceptions I have seen, so we can reach a better understanding (and definition) of collaboration in its truest and most powerful sense.
The Misinterpretations of Collaboration
I have noticed that there are two key misinterpretations about Collaboration. One is that it means “I’ll do this for you if you do this for me.” I see this a LOT amongst people flogging their wares on the Internet. It’s the “You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours” mentality. Someone asks someone else to send a Tweet, post a banner on their website or send out an email shot for them, and they promise to do the same in return. While this kind of practice goes on all the time, it’s not truly Collaboration (nor is it truly “joint venture partnering”, which so many people call it). There is no “working together” because there is no real connection between what the parties are working towards.
The other misinterpretation of Collaboration is that it means a division of labour, i.e., where everyone takes a chunk of the work and has their respective tasks on a project. I saw this kind of thinking a lot back when I was in the world of education, and it was often (equally mislabelled) “teamwork”. However, this is not really working together either. In fact, if a “team” has this kind of misunderstanding, they may even be less likely to work together. I’ve seen many members of so-called teams become very protective of their contribution to a project, and get very upset if others are not seen to be carrying their weight of the work. Again, this is not true Collaboration because people are not genuinely working together and might actually feel they are in competition with each other.
What Collaboration Really Is
To me, real Collaboration requires a completely different mindset to either of these misinterpretations. It is not something merely done for mutual gain, but rather for mutual purpose. Nor is it just about working together, but about creating together.
Genuine Collaboration is a mindset in which we are continually seeking new ways to create truly innovative projects with others, knowing fully that we are ALWAYS more than the sum of our parts.
To evaluate whether or not our attempts at team work or “joint venture partnering” are truly collaborative, we can perform a few reality checks to see whether or not they have the four vital qualities of Collaboration:
Real Collaboration should bring life to you, your business, your project and your marketing. Curiously (and I did not do this deliberately), the first letters of these four qualities (V-I-T-E) spell “vite”, which comes from the Latin word vita for “life”.
For a venture to be collaborative, all parties must have a shared vision of the project. They need to believe in its purpose, its meaning and its importance. If there is no confluence of vision, it is not true Collaboration. Even in something as basic as a book launch, when our partners come on board for the campaign, they have to believe in the message, purpose and intention behind the author and the author’s book. When engaging on a bigger project where the parties are actively co-creating something together, shared vision becomes even more important—and truly essential—for Collaboration to manifest. Vision also means that, although your collaboration may well have a project leader, the real “leader” of the project is the vision itself.
Many business and marketing projects have elements of Collaboration, but full-fledged Collaboration means the co-creation of something new. It is about the inventing of something vibrant and exciting that NEITHER party could have done without the other, and that fills a need that could not be filled otherwise.
For instance, I recently met someone who has a business providing ghost-writing and book editing for non-fiction authors. I offer marketing and platform building for the same kind of client. Both of us get people wanting services the other person offers. Now, we could simply refer clients to each other OR we could create a new package where we work together to provide the complete service—from concept to launch. And that’s exactly what we’ve decided to do (we’ll be launching it in May 2013). It’s a completely new innovation neither of us could have created (nor would have wanted to create) within the scope of our individual businesses. It is truly greater than the sum of our parts.
Real Collaboration, whether between individuals, within a team or company, or between different companies, cannot manifest without TRUST. We must trust in each other’s competence, ideas and integrity. Trust entails a fair bit of releasing control, and it can take time and practice to develop. It has less to do with the trustworthiness of the people we are working with than it has to do with ourselves. For example, if we are in unspoken competition with the other party, we will never trust them, even if they are completely trustworthy.
Real trust does not mean turning a blind eye when your gut tells you something is wrong. It means creating an open line of communication so all parties can express their thoughts and concerns. Only then do we reach a place where we don’t “assume” things about each other in silence. Assumptions are the nemesis of trust. Directness and Transparency (Graces 4 and 5) are the foundation of it.
Real Collaboration should make things easier, not harder, for all parties involved. It should make the job feel lighter and (dare I say) more fun. If it doesn’t, then something is failing in one of the other areas. You may not be completely aligned on the vision. You might be “task dividing” rather than co-creating. Or, perhaps there are issues around trust. I remember a workshop I was (supposedly) co-creating with someone a few years ago that felt SO very difficult. It took many months before we could tease out what the problem was. These days, I understand more deeply what true Collaboration is, and I can identify where it’s not working so we can rebalance and bring it back to a place of ease.
My own experience
This week, I am delighted to say I’m on the way to creating at least three fantastic collaborations with different people that will take all of us on paths we would never experience without each other. And I know many more will be popping up in the future. I have found the Grace of Collaboration to be an almost magical vehicle for both personal and business growth.
Personal Enquiries for Collaboration:
What have been your best collaborative experiences in the past?
- On a scale of 1-5 (5 being the best) how well did they attain the qualities of Vision, Innovation, Trust and Ease?
- What have been your WORST “collaborative” experiences?
- Where did they LACK or fail in the qualities Vision, Innovation, Trust and Ease?
- What ideas do you have for future collaborations? How will your past failures and successes help you create stronger collaborations in the future? Which of the four qualities do you want to make sure you watch out for?
Look out for the next two articles where we’ll look at why Collaboration is superior to competition, and why Collaboration is the way forward in our modern world.
You can find out more about how the Grace of Collaboration and all the 7 Graces can help make the world a better place, and your own marketing more enjoyable and effective in my books:
- The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing.
- Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media.
Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll subscribe to the blog and leave a comment below before you go.
~ Lynn Serafinn
1 March 2013
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LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She was recently named one of the Top 100 marketing authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was selected as a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. Her eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. In her work as a promotional manager she has produced a long list of bestselling mind-body-spirit authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, a budding social enterprise whose aim is to help grow a new generation of passionate entrepreneurs who want to serve both people and planet through innovative, ethical, independent enterprise.
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