About a year ago, I took a lovely vacation in Quebec. The scenery along the Saint Lawrence seaway and the Saguenay Fjord is spectacular! I hiked 43 km (about 27 miles) at three separate parks and was rewarded with outstanding vistas (and dozens of mosquito bites).
Quebec is a 95%+ French-speaking province in Canada. I don’t speak French, but I can read menus in French, especially if it’s “croissant”! Most people in Quebec speak some English though it varies from poor to excellent. Menus and signs are often only presented in French, especially in the countryside where we spent time hiking. Some signs and notifications are roughly translated to English.
In a couple of hotels and restaurants, sings notified guests not to smoke, and in French, thanked guests for their “collaboration” with the no-smoking policy. The accompanying English translation noted “Thanks for your cooperation.” Because we read and hear so much about collaboration these days – especially for innovation – it is interesting to consider cooperation as the primary element of collaboration.
In today’s business world, collaboration often is imagined as a random meeting of the minds to create a new idea by people with diverse and unrelated backgrounds. Office spaces are being designed to foster collaboration through chance contacts with open layouts, comfortable shared spaces, and even entertainment areas with Nerf® basketball and ping-pong tables. These office designs are expected to elicit creativity and collaboration for new innovations where the individuals with diverse educational backgrounds and work experiences might not previously have interacted.
Collaboration is expected to result in consensus design and development of new products and services. This view of collaboration means that everyone contributes something to the end product and should have equal participation. As a business trends, collaboration is anticipated to solve a lot of communication problems as well as to enhance creativity for project teams.
Cooperation, in my mind, is a different concept than collaboration. Whereas collaboration is “all-in”, cooperation means providing what is required when it is needed but not necessarily being emotionally committed to a single outcome.
Consider the example of not smoking in a hotel room. As a non-smoker, I do indeed want the smokers to cooperate to enforce the rule. However, I do not expect them to collaborate on the policy or on an end result to eliminate smoking to reduce lung cancer.
Project team members do not always get to choose the solutions that customer request, yet they must work together (cooperate) to develop and build the chosen solution. Cooperation means working together to meet project requirements within the context of a professional relationship, but it does not necessarily include the social aspects desired among advocates of open office spaces equipped with foosball tables.
Cooperation also means sharing data and responding to cross-functional requests by using your expertise. Not all project team members are core team members. Auxiliary team members must be willing to cooperate to provide timely and cost-effective information to assist a project team. Cooperation may mean a short-lived, purposeful business relationship, while building consensus for collaboration can be a more time-consuming endeavor.
Use Cooperation for Collaboration
Collaboration has become a hot buzzword over the last few years and companies are trying to change the way they do business to increase collaboration. Chance encounters in an open office layout may generate a great new idea. However, old-fashioned cooperation – working together for a common purpose and sharing knowledge as needed – is a great start to forming effective product development teams that will grow to collaborate.
To Learn More
Please contact me to apply for a space in our new Life Design Master Mind Group where you will use the tools of design thinking to creatively generate ideas for the next phase of your life or career. The Houston Master Mind Group starts in September. Learn more here.
In our on-line tutorial on Design Thinking and in our Agile NPD course, we also discuss collaboration for project teams. Join us for the Agile NPD course or check out our self-study and other NPDP Workshops. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 281-280-8717. At Simple-PDH.com where we want to help you gain and maintain your professional certifications. You can study, learn, and earn – it’s simple!
We discuss different project team structures in NPDP Certification Prep: A 24-Hour Study Guide, and you can find additional references at https://globalnpsolutions.com/services/npd-resources/. Some other books you might enjoy:
- Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
- The Power of Little Ideas by David C. Robertson and Kent Lineback
- Well Designed by Jon Kolko
- 101 Design Methods by Vijay Kumar
- The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen
Speaking on Design Thinking
- 15 August 2018 at Houston Organizational Development Network Meeting
- 7 September 2018 at Texas Association of Change Management Professionals Conference
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