Over the years, the word “collaboration” has often had a bad press, not least during the Second World War when the words “…with the enemy” were almost invariably added at the end. Yet 70 years on, it’s almost impossible to pick up a management, education or HR journal or blog and find a sentence where collaboration does not appear.
So what have we got here, another buzzword which will shortly pass into the great archives of management-speak (alongside “Talent Management” and “Human Capital” etc) or are we talking about a new way of learning and working which could genuinely have a huge long-term impact on both the commercial and educational sectors and radically change the way we learn and the way we do business?
I tend towards the latter and I can say that coming from an era when “collaboration” at school was called “cheating” and was met by the usual forms of punishment. To be fair, my take at the time on “collaborative learning” was to copy out the answers to the German homework produced by the school swot. Of course, I learnt absolutely nothing but suppose instead, the afore-mentioned swot and a group of lesser academically endowed peers had sat around and worked together as a team through some tapes (no YouTube in my day) to help us appreciate how German really sounded and suppose at the same time, we had been given a project to look at the impact of post-war economic aid on the recovery of the German economy. Suddenly it all becomes so much more interesting than the past passive tense of some obscure verb.
Whilst Michael Gove may still think we need to memorise vast amounts of facts (which are all available to us at the touch of a browser button anyway), I believe we should be teaching young people how to think, problem-solve and most importantly, how to work together because those are the skills that are required in the real world and those are the skills which employers constantly tell us are not available. Social Media, of course, is a wonderful enabler for collaborative learning and there are many Apps now available which whilst originally being designed for business, can support and help the collaborative learning process – Evernote, Yammer and Scoop-it to name but a few.
That is why Creative Learning Partners are looking very seriously at how we can encourage collaboration amongst work-based learners. We have a number of ideas and platforms that we are actively investigating and are looking to incorporate them into our delivery model for Functional Skills later in the year.
In the commercial world “collaboration” is now becoming the norm rather than the exception. Internally, teams are becoming much more fluid. Individuals with specific skills come together and “collaborate” on a specific piece of work and then form new teams with different goals and objectives.
Externally, more businesses are starting to look at competitors in a different light. Whilst I don’t see Pepsi and Coke-Cola getting together and walking hand in hand into the sunset, savvy leaders are looking at ways in which they can co-operate and work together with potential competitors, simply because in so doing , there is added value for both parties and in difficult economic times, that added value becomes even more important.
So overall I am a great believer in the power of collaboration in all its guises. Like any other way of working there are rules and guidelines which need to be followed and I am going to focus on these in my next blog. However, collaborators are no longer in the pocket of quisling governments or Nazi occupiers. They are people who believe that the Social Networking revolution has stimulated a whole new way of working and learning and I for one am on their side.