How Do You Know You Are Collaborating?

Tom McGehee believes that the tell tale signs of collaboration are: a high level of mutual interdependence within the group and members that draw on the strengths of each other. In addition, the team members participate in open and honest conversation not only about what the team does, but questioning why.4 A team is collaborating when they are willing to share the risk taking and decision-making and they are respectful of the contributions of others.

Because collaboration is a process that generates creativity and energy, it is also a process that evolves through several phases. These phases include:5

Phase 1: Mutual Openness
The group has open discussions about the goal and the skills that they bring to the group.

Phase 2: Mutual Exploring
The group asks questions and explores the task objective together.

Phase 3: Mutual Learning
The group experiences "ah-ha" moments, pushing the talents and strengths of each other to a level that they were unaware that they had the capability to achieve.

Phase 4: Mutual Understanding
The group is focused on learning together which leads to understanding. The group is able to ask probing questions and evaluate the usefulness of an idea.

Phase 5: Mutual Application
The group is able to take action and make application. The group continues to build on action through reflection of the process and making new meaning of the situation.

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4 McGehee, 2001, pages 80-84
5 McGehee, 2001, pages 80-84

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