Why Should I Collaborate?

Collaboration is a much-used word and is the fallback shortcut for many things that bring general practices together like working at scale, Primary Care Networks and practice mergers. But is there common understanding of what it means, any perception of why it is important and above all, why we should care? This blog tries to answer all three questions.

I often start my blog planning with a quick search of the good old internet just to get my creative juices flowing. Collaboration threw up two interesting positions on this occasion. First, it’s about working with someone to produce something and mentions positive words like co-operation, partnership and joint effort. Nice. But then it mentions traitorous co-operation with an enemy and words like collusion and consorting. Not so nice. I am sure we’ve all come across collaborations that fit into both categories, sometimes for the same project. A factor common to both descriptions is communication. In either case, good communication is more easily achieved with clear and effective leadership in order for your collaboration to be successful. Whatever you may decide success to be.

But why should you care about leading successful collaborations? Well, mostly because your future personal and business success depends on it. As a key asset of the future, you will need to be able to develop and lead successful collaborations. The future is more at scale, more joined up and more, well, collaborative. Why? Because collaborations facilitate access to more resources, can attract more rewards and are able to deliver more benefits. Simple as that.

Understanding what makes for a successful collaboration and proving you can deliver those things makes you “in demand”. Such skills are rare and will be even more in demand in the future. You can make the connection for yourself. That demand applies as much in primary care as it does across other sectors. So maybe think about acquiring those skills now.

Understanding how to bring about collaborations, to motivate and organise participants towards a common purpose and then to bring together different perspectives, is actually a lot harder than it sounds. It needs practical knowledge and application of things like reciprocity, reflection and engagement. Skills and experience we all have I am sure, but how often do we get to practice them? Sometimes collaborations are mandated and we are all compelled to join in. Think Primary Care Networks – general practices really have had to join in or miss out on potential rewards.

The key issue is what should you do right now? Well, I would suggest you may want to get ahead of the game and practice different approaches to hone your collaboration skills. Including understanding the factors that impact on success and learn more about how other people react in collaborations. It’s a fascinating subject area and it will likely take you into better understanding the fear. Yes fear. People fear collaborating and they fear not collaborating (FOMO!). Being part of it or not being part of it. Learn about that.

My partner recently had to endure (her description) an online collaborative forum as part of an OU degree. To say she hated it would not be too strong. She felt it was false and emphasised isolationism rather than her preferred method of sharing, face to face collaboration. But she endured and was amazed at the diversity of views, opinions and angles developed on what was, a tightly defined history question. The joint collateral allowed the whole group to understand the question much better and will, hopefully, lead to better exam results!

So be prepared to widen your opinion and practice of the means and methods that lead to successful collaborations. Your own view may be skewed or biased based on your own experiences. Using the above example, I pondered the learning arising from balancing the isolationism and meetingism (not a real word) we often use to reach an agreed conclusion in primary care.

So how should you start preparing for the future? Well, I would start by securing some good advice from people who have delivered successful collaborations already. Find out what they do and what methods they use. How do they approach setting up potential collaborations and how do they plan activities? Their methods may offer a pointer for what you need to focus on.

Have you got preferred ways of working that don’t always work with those you want to collaborate with? Have you tried doing things differently? Find ways to challenge yourself and to acquire those different skills and you will be on your way.

And make sure you keep up to date with the ever-changing direction of travel. Good collaboration leaders know there is always another one just around the corner.

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