Cooperation or Collaboration? What’s the difference and why it matters more than ever?
Politeness is the poison of collaboration.
– Edwin Land
Imagine a day not too far in the future. You’re working with a new client, a person of wealth with a family she cares deeply about. You’ve just completed some fact finding, taken a few notes, and are now thinking that you should refer this new client to another professional for work that you aren’t trained to do.
Will you refer her to your long-time colleague, someone you know and trust? What about that new guy in town, the one with the fresh ideas? Or what about that guy who referred you some business not too long ago? Maybe you can reciprocate and refer him this client.
But what if things go wrong? Might there be some liability? Maybe it’s better to stick with the common practice by giving her two names and letting her choose.
But what if you lose control of this client and are supplanted as the most trusted advisor?
I’ve observed and been involved in many situations when I or another advisor had to consider who else to work with and make a choice about who to recommend. I’ve experienced and suspect that others have experienced as well these unspoken thoughts, fears, and concerns. What I’ve come to realize is that these thoughts, this mindset is more about me than it is about my clients. And that orientation is flawed.
Can we take our professional obligations and commitments seriously enough to truly put our clients’ interests ahead of our own? Not to the exclusion of our own interests but emanating from a client-centric point of view. And from such a view, can we create a win-win outcome, one that works for everyone involved? I believe that with a shared ethos and a collaborative process, win-win outcomes can occur on a consistent basis.
The key is the difference between inter-disciplinary collaboration and minimum professional courtesy or cooperation. We all have worked long and hard to develop and maintain the professional skills and knowledge to conduct our businesses successfully. Naturally, we’ve also developed a certain amount of self-esteem, confidence, and pride in our work. In other words, we’ve all built up our egos as well. Thus, when we refer business to another professional without engaging with interacting in any meaningful way with that professional, we keep our egos intact by working in “silos” and cooperating with the other professional. We do our own thing and let others do theirs.
But is this form of professional cooperation really optimal for our clients? What if we engaged a team of professionals in a discovery and design process with ongoing interactions with our clients? Might we synergize our individual expertise and co-create solutions in a way that produces better, more client-centric results? To me, this represents a better, more optimal way of working with clients. This is my vision of inter-disciplinary collaboration.
Cooperation or Collaboration? What’s the Difference and Why It Matters More Than Ever?