The term “collaboration” is used frequently in today’s organizational setting, and with good reason. There is so much information available to us, that no one person has all the answers to any one problem anymore. Although every problem does not require a collaborative approach, many problems do, bringing together a host of people with different types of expertise and knowledge, crossing technical, philosophical, cultural and racial boundaries to name a few. We have come to realize, as a society, that we must collectively and collaboratively work together to solve many of the problems that currently confront us.

Co-operation and collaboration are similar but not identical, and individuals are mistaken to use these terms and concepts interchangeably. In a co-operative association, we complete our respective parts and go about our business. In collaboration, not only do we work on our respective parts, we work together interdependently, holding each other accountable for the outcomes, regardless of the work we have completed on our respective parts. In short, “we are all in this together” and our mutual success is contingent on a mutually beneficial outcome.

As with most things, guiding principles are required for collaboration to be effective. One of the key principles is effective conversation, and while that may appear to be self-evident, there are many who talk, but few whom actively and consciously engage in effective conversation.