In a bee’s day, individual differences lead to improved decision making. While her royal highness "The Queen" plays no part, scout bees are abuzz seeking new nesting places. Through a coded "waggle dance" (Miller, 2010) the swarm communicates and consensus is peacefully achieved. The bee’s diversity of knowledge, friendly competition, and mechanisms to narrow choices have served as a scientific model for humans to improve group decision making.
Ants are a self-organizing species. No one is "in charge". Actions of one have a ripple effect on others as food and havens are found. Pheromones are to ants what vision is to humans (Miller, 2010). Understanding decentralized behavior of ants has led to reduced collisions in human routing processes.
The termite's oxygen consuming vessel is an architectural wonder, and the result of indirect collaboration (Miller, 2010). As changes in the termite mound occur, termite workers take notice through pheromone-based communication, and interact with the structure itself to build and rebuild the mound. Stigmergy as it is known, is an example of indirect collaboration that has been mimicked to isolate failures in power grids and social crowdsources works, such as Wikipedia.
While coordination and cooperation have a place in collaboration, we believe the power of collaboration comes from the magic that happens when minds spark at the intersection. A collaborative experience may be launched with a common goal, such as a problem that needs solving, however we also recognize that serendipitous collaboration occurs during chance interactions. Volitional sharing of ideas, unbound by external forces, triggers intrinsic motivation and inherent satisfaction that comes with it.
Consider the following scenarios that illustrate our meaning.
Phillip, a professor of data science, was enjoying a roundtable lunch at a Computing conference in sunny Los Angeles. He engaged in conversation with practitioners in the field of data management. Phillip shared a concern that third-year bachelor of arts students were not given opportunities to perform real data modeling during their required internships. Following a lively discussion, he learns about a specific data modeling tool and interviewing technique that many company's were using. In-turn, the professionals were alerted to the depth of student learning in data related topics. Subsequent changes in the course curriculum, combined with openness of corporate liaisons, resulted in hands-on data modeling experience for some students; increasing probability for post-graduate employment.
Valerie is concerned that her father, recently undergoing open-heart surgery, is declining during his recovery in the hospital. She consults with her family and they successfully coordinate a meeting with the primary care nurse, cardiologist, pulmonologist, social worker, and nephrologist. During the meeting they all (family members and care givers) engage in active discussion sharing information about a father and about a patient. Changes were immediately made to address diet, depression, and further medical testing that resulted in improvements, and release of Valerie's father from the hospital.
Researcher's at a leading medical institute were troubled by an increase in competition for NIH grant funding, evidenced by fewer funded projects at their university. Instead of seeking investigators from within their university, researchers joined a forum to learn about potential co-investigators across institutions. As a result of grant writing across organizations, the university recognized an up-tick in overall funded research projects and researcher recognition, along with an increase in novel discoveries.
"Collaboration is defined as the synergistic relationship formed when two or more entities working together produce something much greater than the sum of their individual abilities and contributions" (Sanker, p. 3).
"Collaboration: working together with an attitude of cooperation and mutual success, and supporting each other’s interests and goals" (Tamm, 2004, p. 267).
"Collaboration can be an equally provocative term prompting debate, for example about the difference between coordination or cooperation and collaboration. Additionally, collaboration stands among other related concepts such as dispute resolution, conflict management, and interdependent decision making. Each of these notions, and their literatures, are useful but, alone, insufficient" (Reagle, 2010, p. 46).
"Consequently, I [Reagle] use the term collaboration in Michael Schrage’s sense, which arose from his study of collaborative technologies: collaboration is the process of shared creation: two or more individuals with complementary skills interacting to create a shared understanding that none had previously possessed or could have come to on their own. Collaboration creates a shared meaning about a process, a product, or an event" (Reagle, 2010, p. 47).
"I define collaboration as people working together-sometimes by choice, sometimes not. Sometimes we collaborate to jump-start creativity; other times the focus is simply on getting things done. In each case, people in a good collaboration accomplish more than the group’s most talented members could achieve on their own" (Tharp, 2009, p. 4).
Miller, P. (2010). The smart swarm: How understanding flocks, schools, and colonies can make us better at communicating, decision making, and getting things done. New York: Avery.
Reagle, J. M. (2010). Good faith collaboration: The culture of Wikipedia. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
Sanker, D. (2012). Collaborate: The art of we. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
Tamm, J. W., & Luyet, R. J. (2004). Radical collaboration. New York: Harper Collins
Tharp, T. (2009). The collaborative habit: Life Lessons for Working Together. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Visit TraitingSpaces.com and become a spark in your network.