I’m sure everyone already knows that collaboration is, in general, a good thing, but I often forget just how important it can be. There’s a lot of advantages to sharing your ideas and working with someone else to flesh them out. In my mind there are 3 key benefits that I hope to make clear below.
First, and probably most underestimated, is that it forces you to verbalize your own thoughts and ideas. When it’s all in your head it can be surprisingly easy to overlook small details or miss things. Expressing your ideas, and hearing yourself say them out loud, can sometimes cause you to catch your own mistakes or missing pieces. Yet there’s an even more valuable exercise in sharing your thoughts with someone else…mainly, that the other person has to be able to understand what your saying. Often times this can mean that you’ll be forced to find a new way to express your thoughts, or put them in a new framework, in order to help make it clear to the other person. It’s similar to teaching in this respect because you have to have a very deep understanding of whatever it is you’re trying to share in order to effectively communicate this to others. Many times this will force you to think about something in a new way that you probably never would’ve considered if you were just brainstorming on your own.
Second, is that it provides a fresh perspective on your stale thoughts. The longer you spend thinking/working on something on your own the more entrenched you become in a few initial assumptions/beliefs/ideas. It quickly gets to the point that in your mind you no longer even consider any other possibilities. Often I personally don’t even realize I’ve done it at all, but it very much shapes your future thinking as you can no longer think outside of these initial constraints. By collaborating with someone who is not already in your frame of reference they can easily see, and point out, when these initial constraints are wrong or hindering. It’s a very similar idea to my previous post The importance of an outside perspective.
And finally, and most obviously, collaborating brings in a whole new mind (or several) on a problem. Everyone has a different thought process and getting more people involved in solving a problem or thinking about an idea is going to give you more perspectives and thus more possibilities. We all know that person that thinks in a completely different way than we do, and it is often times that person that provides the most contribution of new ideas to the discussion. This is also important in providing new ways of thinking about a problem that can lead to solutions that no single individual could’ve come up with on their own (or wouldn’t have in a time frame comparable). These are often the best solutions/ideas and are what most people think of when they think of collaboration.
So the moral of the story is this: collaboration is good. Flesh out ideas with other people, and do it early in the process if possible (although adding a new person in down the line isn’t always bad either). The added benefits make it well worth your while for key decisions.