Hidden Benefits of Collaboration

Hidden Benefits of Collaboration

By Rebecca Broad

“Heads, shoulders knees and toes, KNEES AND TOES…”

It wasn’t the song you’d expect to hear bellowed by a 20-strong group of men, drinking in an Exeter car park, late on a Saturday night.  There had been chants and the sound of bottles clinking for some time.

“…AAAAND eyes and ears and mouth and nose–”

An angry expletive was yelled from a resident in the block of flats I was in.  Somewhat predictably, this was kindly echoed by the men.

I’d had enough.  My boyfriend’s 6-year-old was fast asleep but could, quite understandably, be woken up at any moment.  I didn’t fancy listening to them all night either. I grabbed my keys, stuffed my feet into my shoes, and stomped outside.

“Guys?”  My own voice sounded feeble as I approached the crowd.  I cleared my throat. “GUYS!!!” That got the attention of a few, who commanded the remainder to be quiet.  They looked at me, and I looked back and we all seemed quite surprised at the situation we found ourselves in.  Wine and vodka bottles dangled from fingertips. I cleared my throat again. Someone shushed a lone singer.

“I’m really sorry to interrupt,” (how English and polite can you get?!), “but we’ve got kids in the flats trying to sleep.  I’ve only just left Uni so I appreciate the situation: it’s a big night. I want you all to have a great time, but could you possibly move away from the residential area?  There’s, um, a bottle bank just up there.”

The atmosphere flipped immediately: I have never heard such a large group of people apologise so quickly and so profusely.  A few ringleaders promised me they’d leave right away, taking every bit of rubbish. They even thanked me for making them aware of the situation!  By the time I was back inside, the car park was empty.

This is my first hidden benefit of collaboration: when people expect to be at loggerheads, a friendly approach – working together instead of battling – can press the reset button on potential conflict and make everyone see things in a new light.

Side note: in no way am I encouraging anyone to approach large groups of inebriated men, for obvious reasons.  However, I felt able to do so, having previously trained to be a Welcome Team volunteer for the University of Exeter (read: I spent Fresher’s weeks on club night patrol ‘looking after’ students who were truly ‘celebrating’ their new life).  I was also fairly confident I knew the affiliation of the group of men in the car park, and I was aware of how to leverage this if required.

I had begun the conversation with an apology (to make it clear I wasn’t expecting one from them), established some common ground (being a student), and requested a clear, easy solution which would make everyone happy.


Fill the niches

Collaboration is about working together to complete goals which serve everyone involved.  Nowhere in the local business world is this truer than in the case of Momentum South West.

The brainchild of Rachael Howourth, Momentum South West’s Partnership Team includes a number of individuals with different strengths: data analytics, coaching, wellbeing, and so on.  We all serve separate niches, but each of us are passionate about SMEs in the South West. The ultimate goal is to serve our clients better, via a rounded service.


Greater than the sum of parts

To address what might have become, by this point in an article on collaboration, the elephant in the room: I won’t be analysing the Brexit situation.  However, it has given rise to many more opportunities to collaborate, particularly around legislation.

If one good thing has come out of all the recent uncertainty about the future of the environment, it’s that green NGOs in the UK are now working together.  A coalition of nineteen organisations has formed Greener UK. The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, National Trust and Woodland Trust are among its members,” explains Harry Barton, CEO of Devon Wildlife Trust, the charity for which I am a trustee.

“Greener UK means that all these organisations hold a similar line on key points and are acting as a united front when pressing the government and decision makers to choose the right direction to ensure a sustainable future for us all.  This has got to be a huge step forward, and it will dramatically increase our chances of getting a good long-term outcome for our natural environment.

With a combined public membership of 7.9 million people (representing around 12% of the UK’s population) Greener UK are calling upon the Government for a meaningful Environment Act.  Collaboration is enabling us to show a groundswell of support for the aims of nature recovery and society connection. This will hopefully encourage political and royal support.

Supposedly coined by Aristotle, the philosopher’s reference to synergy – “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” – is spot on when it comes to collaboration in this respect.  It’s not just about working closer together, but about creating a stronger outcome than the NGOs could achieve by themselves.


An element of vulnerability

“Collaboration is critical in business, family, friendship and life, but recognising ‘what we don’t know’ and being comfortable and secure enough to ask for help is often a barrier to collaboration.

“I can look back on pivotal moments in my career, and identify the times when collaboration was my only strength. Surrounding ourselves with wise, inspiring people is sensible. Being vulnerable enough to ask for support and contrasting opinions to our own shows incredible strength. Run towards it.”, said Rachael Howourth, when I asked her to reflect on her experience of collaboration in business.

Where in your life can you work with others to build something bigger?


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

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