What does collaboration mean, really? Collaboration is one of the most over-used and often misunderstood words in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) community. At its core, collaboration is cooperation. In a community, it’s about intentionally sharing values and a vision. So how do you come to a common set of values and vision? It starts with creating a team with people who already align with a common goal. The next step would be to look for new team members that can add value to the team by providing a different perspective while sharing core common ideas.
During a discussion, everyone should be allowed to contribute freely with respect and trust and simultaneously understand that ideation and creation are both additive and subtractive – not all ideas will be developed into the project. In turn, the team should create an environment where all contributions, even those not developed, are important aspects of the project’s exploration.
When collaborating as a team, it is important that everyone has a clearly defined role, and we understand our connection to each other so elements can be combined for synergic solutions. Individual ideas can solve a challenge, but integrated design can bring an exponentially improved solution. Further, collaborative teams take the time to ask how we can improve our relationship, processes and solutions throughout the life of a team – iteration.
In our new common mode of hybrid work, collaboration can be strengthened, but it takes a dedicated effort to maximize the sharing of information, ideas and solutions. In my opinion, there is tendency to create work environments at the extremes, either all co-location or remote. As we have discovered by working remotely during COVID isolation, focused activity can bring about effective and efficient concepts, but valuable input from teammates can be missing. Independent effort is important to the development of a project, and when combined with intentional collaboration, an environment is created for success. It is about finding the balance between independent and shared settings.
“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”
– Amy Poehler, Writer & Comedian
When facing complex projects it is common to develop information overload and while many ideas are being explored it is important to know where the truth lies. Ultimately, a team is developing one compressive, integrated solution, and we need tools and processes to effectively communicate and understand the composition and its elements. There are many tools on the market to further collaboration, but ultimately the tool is less important than being diligent about inputting the correct data, evaluating the material, identifying the path forward, and where new and existing opportunities for exploration reside. Further, it is critical for the entire team to decide which tool they can rely on.
There are many benefits to collaborating. Often, it allows a team to become more efficient and maximize the performance of the project. In my opinion the most important aspect that comes with collaboration is an unequaled sense of contribution and sharing.