by: William Singleton

I recently heard a quote from Ron Howard that seemed provocative, “Collaboration always fails.” Hmmmm. I thought the goal was to be more collaborative, to get more people to the table. To quote my mentor, Jack Welch, “get more brains in the game.” Collaboration can't fail; it has to work and it must work every time. Doesn't it?

A Real Brain Teaser
I probably wouldn’t think twice about this statement if it came from someone that was committed to go alone on their life journey or even just plain bitter. But, this is Ron Howard, the great childhood actor and maybe even greater movie director and producer. He's been through challenges and still is making great things happen in his world.

How could he have possibly achieved his level of success without collaboration? It seems impossible, in fact, I am sure it is. Because I fundamentally know that collaboration is a good thing. Most of us know that collaboration is good. Who among us can achieve more or say that we have arrive at our current station without that help, influence, or collaboration with others.

The definition of collaboration is the act of working with someone to create or produce something. This definition stands in direct opposition to Mr. Howard's quote. I respect him and the work he has done so maybe I need to think a bit more about what he was trying to say. And here is what I have concluded

A Collective Mindset
Collaboration always fails when it works. Collaboration is that act of bringing others along to collectively create something. Ten people sitting in my office that look like me, think like me and act like me is not a collaboration as good as that may sound. However, 10 people that are different from me in thought, background, and expertise sitting in my office with the intent to create something is a sure bet to have some failure.

And, so, I get it... the goal of collaboration is to fail, and fail and fail again until you, the collective, the “collaboration” gets it right. 

Working Together Better
We have so many opportunities for collaboration in our workspace. With members of our team, with other departments within our organization, with outside companies and agencies. What is our mindset when we approach collaboration? Are we looking to create the best idea or our personal best idea?

Maybe we think having multiple teams or experts at the table is a good thing, but it's only a good thing if every brain is in the game, every voice is heard, and at the end of the day you come out of the process, after much failure, with something that truly represents the purest form of collaboration.

AuthorCaroline Thompson