Collaboration is defined as the action of working with someone to produce or create something. While this is a skill that sets humans apart from much of the rest of the animal kingdom, it doesn’t come as naturally to some as it does others. Yes—collaboration, in many ways, is an art form. That is why I’ve chosen it to be the first in my next series entitled “Working Together”. Now let’s explore the art of collaboration.

Working with others
One of the basic tenants of collaboration is the action of working with others. Some people love to work as part of a group, while others prefer to work autonomously. Regardless of ones preferences, there will inevitably be a time in your life when you’ll have to work with others, whether for a job, in school, in your neighborhood, community or even on a project at home. Oh, and let’s not forget working with others in our relationships. Yes, working with loved ones or friends will be imperative to maintaining and growing those as well.

Set your goals. Know your roles.
Ideally, a collaborative effort will begin with ensuring everyone has a solid understanding of what you’re all working towards. It might be helpful to write your main goal out and then list out the smaller goals that will help complete the main one. Next you should begin organizing the roles everyone will take in order to help achieve these goals. If your collaboration partners aren’t very familiar with one another, it might be a good idea to discuss your individuals skills, strengths, weaknesses and pet peeves in an effort to work towards whatever common goal that has been set. This will make it easier to organize the workflow and ensure that you’re properly taking advantage of people’s skill sets and core competencies.

Lending a helping hand
Even after gaining a better understanding of your teammates, you may come to find yourself in roles that you don’t feel entirely confident filling. Perhaps your team members felt that they weren’t ideal for those roles either and decided you’d be the best to take them on. This isn’t a bad position to be in and your teammates will appreciate you stepping in to lend a helping hand. Do your best to keep an open mind because you may come to be surprised at what you are capable of. Still, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your team will likely be happy to assist you and the change of pace can give them a much needed break from their own responsibilities. This same principle applies to you as well. Never hesitate to lend a helping hand!

Discussing ideas
In any collaborative environment, there will almost always be situations in which ideas or decisions will need to be discussed. This very well may be one of the most interesting processes you’ll participate in. When discussing ideas, it’s important to share as much as you can and avoid limiting your contributions out of fear or shyness. You never know when something you think is too simple or inconsequential can resonate with your team. One thing to also consider is how you react to others ideas. Try to avoid putting down the ideas of others or denying them outright. Do your best to give people a chance to express their view and then do what you can to respectfully add to their ideas or offer additional alternatives.

A Unique Collaboration

Although this blog was inspired by the Audio Book release of the Barnaby Jones novel I completed for Buddy Ebsen–Sizzling Cold Case (The Legend of Lori London)–ours was a rather unusual collaboration.

We did not sit down and go over book ideas. The core story: “The Legend of Lori London” was totally Buddy’s creation–most scenes coming directly from his original handwritten manuscript.
While I had worked with Buddy on his first novel, Kelly’s Quest, and some other writing projects, my role was more that of a sounding board, not a collaborator. He was very excited about writing a Barnaby Jones novel (the savvy PI he played on TV for eight successful seasons). Buddy wrote one or two Barnaby Jones scripts when the show was on the air. “The Legend of Lori London” was originally written as a script. However, Buddy was working on turning it into a novel before he passed away at the age of 95. Since his manuscript was hand written, I had not laid eyes upon it until it had been typed by Phyllis, his long-time secretary, whom he claimed could read his writing better than himself.

That was a few months after we lost him. Since “The Legend of Lori London” was a work-in-progress, to craft it into a novel, I added the major subplot and just a few characters—the majority were, of course, Buddy’s Barnaby Jones characters whom fans saw on the weekly TV shows. However, to keep Buddy’s novel the authentic Barnaby Jones novel he envisioned, I kept it in his voice and brought it full circle. I added Terry McCormick—a client of Hal Jones, Barnaby’ son. McCormick murdered Hal on the first Barnaby Jones episode—the subplot was essential to bringing McCormick into the story in a meaningful way. I learned recently, from Buddy’s widow, Dorothy, that the character of Lori London was inspired by the actress, Thelma Todd, whose suicide was later found to be a murder.

While Buddy was taken from all who loved and admired him on July 6, 2013, I felt that he was right beside me all the way on this book. In listening to the audiobook, while in production, I was delighted to find I could not distinguish a difference in voice from Buddy words and those I added. Nor can I remember which words came directly from Buddy’s pen and which ones I added, except when used in the subplot or with the few characters I added.

Collaboration is one of humankind’s most important achievements. It has allowed us to build incredible structures, populate almost the entirety of the earth, gain a deeper understanding of the world and create amazing works of art. Why not find something to collaborate on with people in your community?

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