Today I asked Gisele Nelson, Project Manager at Plywood People, to guest blog about collaboration. Over the past year, I have had the distinct privilege to get to know Gisele and be consulted by her and Plywood People on brand, focus, intentional blogging, and the importance of collaboration. How the Wellspring Living blog looks today is a testament to Gisele and the standard she has set on the Plywood blog. I asked her to share about collaboration, and why it is important among innovators and non-profits. This is what she had to say!

Collaboration is a buzzword of our generation. People have begun to see the increasing value of allowing others to have a voice in what they do. Our organization, Plywood People, has a set of 6 guiding values we hope to exemplify. It’s a short list. We keep a short list so we can actually focus on them, and collaboration is at the top of the value system.

There’s great value after an idea has been conceived and is beginning to be implemented, to strategically add outside voices to the conversation.  We all have fears in collaboration. You might tell me that you’re afraid your idea might be stolen or that by collaborating with others you’ll use up your most creative ideas helping others.  Maybe you think that if you allow someone else to speak into your project, that they’ll generate more work for you than you’re able to do or that you’ll spend the time collaborating and come up with no more good ideas or processes than you had before you started.

Well, the truth is, all of these things could happen. But I don’t think they are valid enough fears to stop the opportunity of collaboration. We need each other.

I believe strongly in collaboration because I think 4 important things happen when we engage in labor with others.

  • Collaboration naturally creates accountability. Once you’ve shared what you’re doing with someone else, you can be certain next time you see or talk to them, they’re going to ask you about it. They want to see it succeed because they’ve invested in it, and you then, feel the deeper responsibility to make it happen.
  • Collaboration helps us define the non-negotiables. Sometimes we get so tied to the way our organization has done things in the past, that we have trouble seeing another way. It helps to invite someone else into the conversation who sees the world from a different viewpoint, to help recognize what is negotiable and what is not. What NEEDS to be said, and what can be amended.
  • Collaboration shows how much you value others. Whether you’re speaking into someone else’s work, or they’re speaking into yours, it creates an incredible opportunity to value the other party, their creativity, and opinions. It creates a teachability within your organization that is essential to moving forward. If you don’t believe you have somewhere to grow, it’s going to be difficult to continue to become the best you can be. Likewise, when you offer your unique talents, skills and voice to collaborate with someone else, you’re getting to value them and their work on a deeper level.
  • Collaboration increases other’s participation in your story. This is ESPECIALLY important in the nonprofit world. When others voices are valued around the table, those involved feel they have a significant role in what you’re doing and will become your biggest advocates. If people do not think they are needed, they won’t be involved. You create your biggest fans when you invite them to be apart of the process and contribute to the solutions.

With all this being said, there are definitely boundaries that also have to be put in place when collaborating. There has to be a trust that has been built so that the opinions spoken can be heard, respected, and put in their proper place. And it’s nice if before you ask someone to collaborate with you, if you have the foundation already in place so your time can be well spent.

What have been some positive collaborative experiences you have had?

What keeps you from collaborating with others?

What is something you’re working on right now that could use the input of another mind?

By Gisele Nelson

Gisele is the Project Manager for Plywood People. She writes for and manages the Plywood Blog, does the bookkeeping, sells Billboard Bags, and just generally tries to keep things in order. Aside from Plywood People, she loves to read, write, play the piano, drink delicious coffee and listen to great stories.