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8 Patterns in Collaboration


When it comes to people’s approaches to collaboration, there seem to be three general schools of thought:

  1. The “Collaboration-is-a-giant-mess-and-you-should-just-decide-what-to-do-and-then-convince-people” school, with adherents who believe that collaboration is a messy, incoherent process that generally doesn’t work so we should instead just have a small group make the decisions for everyone). This is fortunately a failing school of thought in collaboration.

  2. The “If-we-just-follow-these-exact-steps-this-it-will-work” school, whose followers believe that if people just follow some methodical process, something great will happen. This school is generally supported by consultants with Special Methodologies™.

  3. The “Well-yeah-it’s-a-bit-messy-but-there-is-a-beautiful-order-within-it” school. As you might guess, this is the school that we at CoCreative belongs to.

What differentiates the followers of these schools is a basic assumption about where collaboration falls on a continuum between order and chaos. If you assume that collaboration is chaos and disorder, then it probably will be. On the other hand, if you assume that collaboration is an ordered, structured process, then you're bound to be disappointed (or, if it is ordered and predictable, then what you’re doing is not collaboration or you’re not working on a truly complex problem).

The middle way is to recognize that there are certain patterns that tend to show up in collaboration and, if you can see and effectively leverage these patterns, then the collaboration will be both more efficient and more productive. In this series, we’ll share the 5 patterns that we believe you can harness and shape to help any collaboration work better. We hope these patterns help you think about how to lead your own collaborations more effectively.

For more details on each of the 8 Patterns in Collaboration, see below:

  1. Critical Shifts

  2. Diverging & Converging

  3. Checking Back

  4. Creative Tensions

  5. Focus & Frame

  6. The Design Squiggle

  7. Working Concurrently

  8. Spiraling

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