Effective collaborators: Skills and dispositions

An effective collaborator draws on many skills and dispositions, such as the qualities listed in the posts to follow. We can cultivate these skills and dispositions through participation in suitable activities and through creative habits, such as always taking stock of what we did (and did not do) and planning ways to improve. Participants who cultivate themselves as collaborators can bring their skills and dispositions to any collaboration (or workshop, group process, etc.) they get involved in. To the extent that participants in a collaboration have been cultivating themselves as collaborators, the people organizing or facilitating the collaboration can expect their efforts to be more fruitful.

(Indeed, the list provides not only a checklist of qualities for cultivating collaborators, but also a checklist of conditions for organizers and facilitators to foster when running a collaborative process. Of course, we all find ourselves in some groups or teams where these conditions are not fostered. It is easy to fret over the shortcomings of our team leaders and colleagues. However, an antidote to fretting is for us to affirm the qualities below in our personal sphere and, more generally, to (re)claim space for our own creative pursuits.)

The list groups the qualities under four headings—Respect, Risk, Revelation, Re-engagement. (Note: An item under one heading may well contribute to the other headings.) The thinking behind these headings is, in brief, that a well-facilitated collaborative process keeps us listening actively to each other, fostering mutual Respect that allows Risks to be taken, elicits more insights than any one person came in with (Revelation), and engages us in carrying out and carrying on the plans we develop (Re-engagement). What we come out with is very likely to be larger and more durable than what any one person came in with; the more so, the more voices that are brought out by the process.

[These posts arose after teaching a two-day workshop on “Cultivating Collaboration” as part of a graduate course on “Creative Thinking, Collaboration, and Organizational Change.  A colleague asked me to make explicit the skills of a collaborator that the students were supposed to be cultivating.  In future years I plan not only to provide students with my list of skills and dispositions, but also make clear the following:  The activities of the workshop lead participants into using some tools and processes, making connections with each other, and formulating contributions to the topic of cultivating ourselves as collaborators. To reinforce and extend this experiential learning students should:

  • review each activity to identify which of the listed collaborator skills and dispositions applied to the activity and to identify possibilities for further cultivation of these qualities;
  • read the supporting material on each tool or process so the design and goals of each activity could be appreciated and perhaps replicated;
  • build on the two steps above to formulate more systematic plans for practice and evaluation with an eye to improvement.]
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About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

5 Responses to Effective collaborators: Skills and dispositions

  1. Pingback: Effective collaborators: Skills and dispositions (Respect) « Probe—Create Change—Reflect

  2. Pingback: Effective collaborators: Skills and dispositions (Risk) « Probe—Create Change—Reflect

  3. Pingback: Effective collaborators: Skills and dispositions (Revelation) « Probe—Create Change—Reflect

  4. Pingback: Effective collaborators: Skills and dispositions (Re-engagement) « Probe—Create Change—Reflect

  5. Pingback: Effective collaborators: Structural conditions vs. personal development « Probe—Create Change—Reflect

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