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Books about Collaboration

Updated on February 9, 2016
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Stephen Bush is the founder and CEO of AEX Commercial Financing Group. Steve obtained his MBA from UCLA and is a U.S. Navy veteran.

Books About Working Together
Books About Working Together

Books about Collaborating

The need for books about collaboration is illustrated on a daily basis when we witness the ongoing failure among elected government officials to routinely collaborate with politicians who disagree with them. Although it is less publicly evident within both large and small businesses, a similar tendency to devalue the importance of collaborating with others can be seen regularly.

While government disagreements might not be directly causing a similar climate of hostility in the private sector, it has been widely observed that the political process in the United States has caused more divisiveness throughout the country. It certainly seems possible that the lack of collaboration in one area has compounded the problem in other sectors.

Regardless of any cause-and-effect relationship, the attempt to improve collaborating should be considered as a step in the right direction. Here are some books that should prove to be helpful in this challenging learning experience.

Questions (and Books) About Collaboration
Questions (and Books) About Collaboration

What Is Collaboration?

From a business perspective, collaboration is usually thought of as referring to the process of working together to achieve goals. As one recent example, there was complex government and political collaboration involved in the bank bailouts several years ago. This particular situation also illustrates an ongoing difficulty whenever collaborating is involved:

Agreeing on the goals that everyone is working together to accomplish.

When the banking industry was bailed out by taxpayer funding, the goals were not spelled out specifically. As a result, there is now widespread disagreement as to whether the collaborative bank bailout effort was successful or not. As with other government or business activity, learning from mistakes should not be overlooked. With or without collaboration, mistakes will always occur under even the most ideal circumstances.

Books About Collaboration
Books About Collaboration

Right and Wrong Ways to Collaborate

Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground, and Reap Big Results
Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground, and Reap Big Results

This book is based on research, case studies and interviews. It has been referred to as "the definitive book on collaboration." Morten Hansen rightfully describes that there are critical differences between "good and bad collaborating." Avoiding mistakes, problems and pitfalls is essential to effective collaboration. As Hansen has observed, "Bad collaboration is worse than none at all."

What can go wrong?

Mistakes and problems are inevitable with almost anything. With collaboration one of the most critical problems is likely to occur when strategies and goals are not agreed upon by all parties. There are many examples that can be analyzed to see what this looks like when it happens. A recent illustration that comes to mind is the bank bailout starting in 2008. Goals for the bank bailout were poorly-defined. Because of this, many individuals are still probably wondering if the bailout was successful or if it failed.

The failure to collaborate effectively is clearly not the intention of the parties involved. The risks and problems generally mean that success is not inevitable simply because everyone agrees to work together. Overall the primary reason to pursue collaboration is that the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks. As with many ventures, success is often not easily obtained.

Take a Closer Look: What Could Happen?
Take a Closer Look: What Could Happen?

Doing what's right is seldom easy.

— Janice Hardy
The Culture of Collaboration: Maximizing Time, Talent and Tools to Create Value in the Global Economy
The Culture of Collaboration: Maximizing Time, Talent and Tools to Create Value in the Global Economy

As most of us have noticed, the work culture in most organizations has changed drastically during the last several decades. Collaboration has become more important but also more difficult to achieve in practice. Designed to be a practical guide for anyone wanting to enhance the practical use of collaborating, this is a true five-star book about a timely and timeless topic.

Making More Effective Choices

The failure to collaborate in business and everyday life is at least in part due to choices and decisions made to avoid collaboration. For many individuals, collaborating is simply not included in their current skill set. The good news is that the ability to make better choices is a learned skill for most of us. The bad news is that acquiring the needed communication skills requires a choice that facilitates the process.

Making smart choices involves a learning process that is likely to include some problems and risks. It should be expected that mistakes will be made along the path to more effective collaboration. As with many other personal and business efforts, having a "Plan B" is advisable.

Making smart choices can also be accurately described as "Doing the right thing." Here are four of the "right things" for small businesses:


Business Negotiating



None of the four business activities just listed are likely to be accomplished in an effective manner without some collaboration and teamwork. As noted by Janice Hardy, "Doing what's right is seldom easy." A key component in the entire process is cost-effectiveness. But it might not matter how cost-effective a collaborative strategy is without an ongoing commitment to work together.

There are many reasons why effective collaboration is viewed as a "winning strategy" for both individuals and businesses. The books described above and below are a good starting point for anyone who wants to learn more.


Collaborating to Make a Military to Civilian Transition Better

There might not be a better example of how collaboration can work as well as what happens when collaborative strategies are absent than by looking at military to civilian career transitions. This particular career change has always been subject to plenty of risks and problems, but the current state of affairs for a military transition has reached a level that makes success unlikely without some specialized help. The following video is a concise overview of why collaborating is likely to be part of an effective solution to this particular problem.

To collaborate or not to collaborate?

The New How: Creating Business Solutions Through Collaborative Strategy
The New How: Creating Business Solutions Through Collaborative Strategy

In their attempt to thrive in a rapidly-changing world, most businesses are struggling in one key area or another. While they are often difficult to implement, collaborative strategies are worth the effort. Nilofer Merchant has written a masterpiece about collaborating — with actionable and practical strategies for breaking through the glass collaboration ceiling.

Failure to Collaborate

In some government and business situations, an ongoing failure to collaborate is currently worn like a badge of courage. It comes across as some of the most amateurish behavior imaginable outside of a kindergarten setting.

Unfortunately, the only positive outcome from such business and political shenanigans is to provide Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and every single editorial cartoonist in the country with something to talk and draw about in their next show and cartoon. This is hardly a good thing for the country.

Here is a hypothetical question to contemplate: Should we vote for politicians who have no intention of collaborating with the opposing political party for the good of the country?

Can such amateurs be shamed into behaving more honorably and ethically? Apparently not.

Failure to Collaborate
Failure to Collaborate

As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people's ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.

— Amy Poehler
Thanks for Visiting Books About Collaboration -- All images provided under End User License Agreement to Stephen Bush
Thanks for Visiting Books About Collaboration -- All images provided under End User License Agreement to Stephen Bush

© 2012 Stephen Bush

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