Idea Management

Thoughts and discussions on how to bring the best ideas forward.

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Compromise vs. Collaboration

February 24th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Compromise vs. Collaboration Diagram

Collaboration is a common buzzword (especially in politics and advertising). It suggests creativity and innovation. Yet, we seem to mistake collaboration for something more unproductive: compromise. Compromise typically breeds dissatisfaction for all parties involved, but that is exactly how many of us collaborate.

With compromise, it works like this: we have a perspective on how to address a challenge. Because of that perspective, we have a certain solution in mind. Then, another group enters the room with their own perspectives, and now our solution must contend with theirs. While we may personally want the best for everyone, we mostly want our idea out there.

Maybe it’s ego. Maybe we truly believe our idea is the best solution. Nobly, we might feel that there is some truth to our solution and all it needs is a little tweaking, so we listen to their solution. There are parts that sound interesting and others that aren’t so appealing. So, we negotiate for some middle ground and we arrive at a solution that is neither ours nor theirs, but something that is half-baked from two dissenting solutions.

Therein lies the danger of compromise: being forced into a watered-down version of multiple solutions when they all may have been lacking in the first place.

Collaboration does not begin with the negotiation of solutions (or tactics). Collaboration begins in leaving your comfort zone to look at the problem from someone else’s perspective. In this place, we suspend our beliefs for just a moment. (Don’t worry, you can go back to your old viewpoint later.) For now, we’re going to look at a bigger picture. We’re going to walk around the problem a little more. We’re going to use multiple perspectives to help us navigate.

Once we have looked at the problems together we can begin discussing new solutions. Instead of negotiating, we’re searching. We’re not taking the ego of our “idea” and matching it against yours. We’re approaching the problem from a completely new vantage point.

Sounds easy, but there is a problem with collaborative problem solving – namely, many of us don’t know how to navigate it properly. Leaving the comfort of your perspective is not easy. And getting others to participate is sometimes an even bigger challenge. To overcome this tricky terrain, it helps to have a facilitator, at least for your first few journeys into better collaboration. In later entries we’ll look at this facillitation, but for now the main objective is to express the difference between these two approaches.

Ed. note: It may seem like I’m talking about arbitration of a conflict between two parties. While collaboration can certainly be used in conflict resolution, in such cases, it is much more difficult for people to let go of their perspectives. In the context of solving business issues or developing ideas is where true collaboration can flourish.

Tags: Advertising · Idea Managment · Interactive Marketing · Social networks

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Justin Powell // Feb 26, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Compromise happens a lot in creative problem solving – it seems to show up a lot in agency / client relationships. Which is too bad, because you’re both out for the best solution!

    Many times the intercessor can be research or the client’s customer. They may help uncover the solution that neither party can disagree on. At Two West we say “Design based on evidence, not ego.” and “Co-creation over isolation”

    But, the true power of collaboration, like you suggest is when both or all three parties (client, agency, client’s customer) help circle around a problem. And with the help of a skilled facilitator ideas and solutions come to the surface that weren’t even in the picture!

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