Collaboration, synonymous with teamwork, requires the bonding of personalities, ideas, ways of being, and doing. Collaboration to some is analogous to alloying metals. In this view, steel, an alloy combing iron and carbon, enhance the constructive properties of metal just as collaboration enhances the qualities of individual contributors and the capacity of an organization. Both processes need a certain amount of heat and pressure to combine one into many. The issue with this metaphor is unlike metals; organizations because of their constantly changing parts rarely reach a level of stasis and therefore strength of metal. When organizations do reach a level of status they tend to break in the constantly changing business environment.
For years, Margaret Wheatley (2007) has written about organizations as living systems. In this view organic bonds allow organizations to adapt and respond to an ever-changing internal and external environment. This requires us to look at organizations as a combination of diverse individual parts. A living system is self-organized, self-managed, self-renewing and self-sustaining.
In conclusion an organization is a system composed of a combination of people and technology constantly changing components and their relations. When organizations do reach a level of stasis similar to metal it is not sustainable. Collaboration is a sustainable, organic process of balancing independency and interdependency of a collection of parts that make up a whole.
This article is part of a larger series entitled The Anatomy of Collaboration