Thomson et all argue in “Conceptualizing and Measuring Collaboration” that from both a theoretical and practical standpoint, the meaning of collaboration has to be better defined in order to measure and, with this data, better implement collaboration. Pages 23 through 28 specifically provide a review of the theory on collaboration, categorized by the authors in 5 key dimensions of collaboration which seem very much interconnected. I personally interpret these dimensions as a possible checklist for successful collaboration. In my own words, these are the requirements for successful collaboration within the 5 dimensions:
To govern means “to conduct policy, actions and affairs”. Much like within any organization, governance within collaboration is important because without a transparent framework of rules (the policy), the participants will become uncertain on how to operate within the collaboration. Like any other part of the collaboration, the management of these rules should be a shared responsibility.
Even with great guidelines on how to operate within a collaboration, the collaboration can be unsuccessful without proper administration of these policies and actions. The administrative structure of a collaboration is decentralized because of the autonomous nature of a collaboration (see ‘Organizational Autonomy’) and because of that, it might be even more important that these structures are set up correctly and with agreement of all parties.
In any collaboration there is a conflict of identity and interest. Partners in a collaboration will need to juggle between their own identity, thriving to meet personal goals, and that of the collaboration, achieving the collaboration goals while maintaining accountability to their partners. This creates a very dynamic partnership (and holds, according to Innes, potential for creativity) but can lead to frustrations in the collaboration. The interest of the individual can never conflict with the goals of the collaboration.
Because of the autonomous nature of a collaboration (the tension between personal and joined goals), mutual beneficial interdependencies are very important for the success of a collaboration: it is the drive of the collaboration. These dependencies can happen in two different ways: either because one partner has unique resources the other party can benefit from or because of shared interests, for example missions, target audiences or culture. Is one of these reasons for collaboration better than the other?
Trust is a central component of collaboration. Even if all parties are able to keep both its personal and the joined goals in mind and the collaboration is build on solid interdependencies, the partners of the collaboration still have to trust that the other party has been truthful in providing information and will follow through on its promises. Trust can exist for short-term collaborations as well long-term ones, but it will be build on the reputation of the parties.
Although the article gives excellent insight in the theory behind the 5 key dimensions, I’m interested in the evidence of these 5 dimension in practice. Please give an example of a collaboration that was unsuccessful because of the wrong implementation of one of the 5 dimensions. Do you think that certain collaboration might not need all 5 dimensions to be successful, or do you think a certain dimension is more important than the others?