A culture of collaboration

collaboration_TalentCove“Shared space — whether physical, virtual or digital — is where collaborators agree to jointly create, manipulate, iterate, capture and critique…. Shared space is the essential means, medium, and mechanism that makes collaboration possible. No shared space? No real collaboration.” – Michael Schrage

Schrage is the author of Shared Minds: The New Technologies of Collaboration. Written in 1990, it is an early work on the value of collaborations. The quote is from a recent blog he posted on Harvard Business Review highlighting his work the past 25 years on collaboration. The big change since he published his book focuses on the importance of creating a culture that supports collaboration for groups, not just collaborations between two individuals. Or as he states, creating “a value and behavioral norm” that makes “collaboration simpler, more accessible, more effective, and more satisfying” for large numbers of people working in organizations.

The System Incentives and Rewards (SIR) team at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities is taking on the challenge of building a culture of collaboration. One of their ideas is to work with our campuses to create “innovation labs” that will have space for collaborative work or “shared space” as Schrage described.

The SIR team’s overall goal is to find ways to redesign our financial and administrative models to reward collaboration. They have identified four important concepts that will make collaboration the core of how we provide higher education that drives student success.

  1. Redesign our financial model to reward collaboration
  2. Encourage entrepreneurial opportunities
  3. Support and encourage multi-institutional coordination
  4. Design a human resources model that incents and rewards collaboration

(For more information on the work of the System Incentive and Reward team visit their page at Charting the Future.)

While it can take a long time to build systems and spaces that incent and reward collaboration in a large organization, the SIR’s team has made a strong start. I am excited to be working in an organization that is taking this type of action. As Charles Darwin said, “In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too), those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”

Todd Thorsgaard


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