Fostering collaboration

“Collaboration is defined as the synergistic relationship formed when two or more entities working together produce something much greater than the sum of their individual abilities and contributions.” – Dan Sanker

As Dee Anne mentioned in her last post, leaders need the ability to work across disciplines, sectors, and geographical boundaries to solve our grand challenges.  In other words, they need the ability to work collaboratively.

For the last several years, collaboration has become a mantra of sorts within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU). It’s the kind of behavior we say we want to model, encouraging all faculty, staff, and administrators to think beyond their self-interests or the boundaries of their own units, colleges, or universities, to the greater good. We aspire to work collaboratively to address our some of our own grand challenges within MnSCU, like keeping tuition affordable in the face of declining federal and state funding or ensuring that our students have access to education that prepares them to lead in every sector of Minnesota’s economy.

collaborateAs a leader, you might ask, what can you do to create a culture that fosters collaboration? In his book, Collaborate! The Art of We, Dan Sanker says that while there is no one recipe for success, there are certain practices found among organizations that create and maintain collaborative cultures. Here are a few:

  • Establish trust
  • Give people enough time to collaborate
  • Provide access to people and information
  • Encourage communication
  • Help people hold productive meetings
  • Provide tools that facilitate collaboration
  • Recognize and reward collaborative efforts

Some of the most satisfying work that I have been a part of in higher education has been the result of collaboration across disciplines and boundaries and working towards a common, larger goal.  The best of those collaborations were built on trust, open communication, with resources allocated towards the efforts and clear sponsorship from top leaders.

What has worked to foster collaboration and work toward the common good in your experience?

Anita Rios








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