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Group Exercises to Improve Collaboration

written by: DParks • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 7/13/2013

One can initiate the process of applying collaborative exercises by first becoming familiar with the tenets of organizational collaboration. Then, one can distribute these exercises, thereby helping to ensure the longevity and sustainability of the company.

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    The Need to Work Together

    Collaborative efforts are the pulse of an organization; indeed, one could consider an organization a large-scale collaborative effort. Accordingly, the optimization of collaborative teams in organizations is paramount. To implement this initiative correctly, one must first become intimately familiar with the factors that affect the efficacy of collaborations. Then, one must apply a series of exercises that can improve the strength of collaborative teams.

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    The Nature of Collaboration

    Improving Collaboration with Group Exercises Gratton and Erickson (2009) conceded, “It is clear that collaboration across and within complex teams is both crucial to business success—and yet at the same time, very difficult." It takes a high degree of attentiveness and competent management to result in successful collaborative teams. Additionally, Gratton and Erickson added that the synthesis of insights and conclusions render collaborative teams essential for innovation. Since innovation is a fundamental tenet for organizational success, this means collaborative teams are essential for the success of a businesses.

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    Determining the Quality of Efforts

    The five determinants for successful collaborative efforts are correctness, consistency, completeness, parsimoniousness, and relevance (Briggs, 2008). Moreover, one engages deficiency discovery by monitoring inputs, evaluating quality, comparing contributions, checking steps, and checking clusters, usually through a facilitator who is an expert in the field. Subsequently, by applying the prior canons to the latter process, one can determine the strengths of a collaborative team while identifying its weaknesses.

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    Team Exercises

    According to Garber (2006), there are five considerations when managing exercises for a collaborative team: included perspectives, increases in credibility, critical moments during collaborative efforts, atypical approaches, and collaboration as a whole. One can use these aspects to create a scale to rate a team’s performance in a series of exercises. Garber thus posited the following exercises.

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    Collaboration Breakthrough Solutions

    Collaboration Breakthrough Solutions is an exercise to illustrate how collaborative efforts can aid in the identification of solutions to the most difficult problems. Initially, one must explain to the team that collaboration results in breakthrough solutions, because:

    • The solution eluded individual problem-solvers within the company
    • Greater involvement in the problem-solving process
    • Processes are more functional with the application of multiple approaches
    • Technological problems are solved more easily due to a culmination of expertise and real-life experiences

    Review of the ten collaboration breakthrough solution factors should follow this explanation:

    • Increased ownership and commitment by team members
    • Practical and applicable solutions
    • The creation of synergy
    • Synergy is defined by the sum of the individual competencies and contributions are greater than the whole
    • Increased creativity
    • Increased risk-taking
    • Increased perspectives
    • Increased innovation
    • Divergence from the norm
    • Increased interest/team enjoyment

    The exercise can then commence, whereby the team must consider real-life experiences that can lead to the discovery of new breakthroughs. After 30 minutes has passed, a discussion would follow regarding what would have been overlooked if segments or individuals from the group worked on the exercise independently. Feedback can then be collected from the team.

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    Assessing Collaboration Values

    This exercise should last one hour. It is for the purpose of teaching collaborative team members how to assess collaborative values. It begins by dividing participants into teams of three to five people. Sets of 10 cards with collaborative values are then distributed to each team. Each of these cards would have a different score based on the strength of the collaborative value. The teams must then select 5 out of the 10 cards that they will use to complete the exercise. The teams would then be scored based on the cards they selected and debriefed and educated on the reason behind each card’s score.

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    Playing Collaborative Roles

    This exercise should last 45 minutes. The purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate the different roles in a collaborative effort as well as the importance of each respective role. To begin, different roles placed on cards would be distributed to each participant. A problem (also placed on a card) would then be given to the participants (for larger numbers, divide into groups of 5). Each member of each group should communicate his or her role and actively participate in finding a solution to the problem, but they cannot show one another the contents of their cards nor can they read any cards distributed aloud. Collective information can be recorded on a flipchart. Following the completion of the exercise, participants should be debriefed on how well each communicated their purpose as well as how effectively each team approached the identification of a solution.

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    Briggs, R. O. (2008). Groupware: Design, implementation, and use. Lisbon, Portugal: Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

    Garber, P. (2006). 51 activities for collaborative management. Amherst, MA: HRD Press.

    Gratton, L., & Erickson, T. J. (2009). Collaborative teams. In J. Storey, P. M. Wright, D. Ulrich (Eds.), The Routledge companion to strategic human resource management (pp. 285-299). New York: Routledge. (see page 235)

    Image Credit: morgueFile/mzacha

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