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Is Collaboration Slowing You Down

I ran across this post that references a study on the “rate of innovation.” Long story short – it is taking longer to come up with new ideas.  Rapid advances in science and technology raise the base line for understanding what we already know so it takes much longer just to get started.  I would have thought that this is offset to a great degree by specialization and collaboration benefiting from modern technology.

Thinking about this I wonder – does insight ever come to a group – or is it always an individual experience that can only be assisted by others. At times collaboration is not a good thing. Sometimes its a distraction.

The greatest leaps in our understanding are always tied to a single person.  Sure, there are examples of groups working together but far more often than not – the great AH HA moments begin (or perhaps better stated end) with one mind making the connection.

I am certainly not advocating the end of collaboration – I just think that in the business world we are loosing the value of “me time” in the process. Perhaps the problem is we have too many things that masquerade as collaboration.  Social networking is not collaboration. Neither is the shared workspace by itself. Worse yet, when you try to mandate, regulate and monitor collaboration – it becomes a process and ultimately a constraint.

Inherit in the idea of true collaboration is actual ownership of a part of the out come by the individuals and accountability, sometimes community enforced, for failure to deliver.  We all may fail together – but sometimes it really is Bob’s fault.

Does then collaboration slow you down when your collaborators are not  up to par? The key I think lies not in technology but team composition.  Everyone having a role, knowing what it is and taking ownership for their part of it.No software in the world can make up for a bad team and yes it really is faster just to do it yourself on occasion.

Nevertheless, we  have to do something to compensate for the monumental drifts of knowledge that we must plow through to get to the light on the other side.  Specialization facilitated by collaborative technologies makes a diffference but even this one day will not be enough. Perhaps next we turn to technology to accelerate learning – but that is for another post.

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