Getting help from collaborators

Collaborative endeavors are looking more like ecosystems to me as I grasp their highly interdependent linkages. Here's a glimpse at how tied together "getting help from collaborators" can be.

All help is not the same. We can get help that is no help at all, takes more time than its worth, takes rework to clean up the mess it made or takes lots of hand holding to get the help to be helpful. We can get help that makes a show of being helpful, tries to help out with good intentions and makes a respectable start at being helpful without producing the results.We can also get help that proves to be really helpful, makes the difference we were seeking and makes collaborating seem genuinely valuable. 

The kind of help we get gives us impressions about the chances of getting helped in the future, predictions about what to expect, and recognizable patterns in who helps us. We learn to draw a distinction between the quantity and quality of help, becoming wary consumers of false promises, over-eager helpers, and burdensome obligations to collaborate when it's not helpful. We also learn to recognize valuable collaborators, effective work processes and beneficial outcomes from working together.

When the help is no help at all, we get implicitly rewarded for getting things done heroically. We develop workarounds to avoid the expectations of collaborating. We see collaboration as a sham that is given lip service but no real commitment to get results. People lose heart in trying to be helpful and rely on their being less than helpful to discourage others from seeking their help. Participants get the idea that they don't have what it takes to be helpful, don't understand others well enough to offer help and don't get support from the system to be more helpful. Collaboration goes into remission.

When the help is really helpful, the opposite dynamics play out vibrantly. Everyone gets rewarded for collaborating in ways that produce desired  results, They seek out opportunities to be helpful by better understanding each other's situations, challenges and shortcomings. They see collaboration as 'the real deal" that is really working and delivering results. Each gains more commitment, conviction and motivation to contribute whole heartedly. They get the idea that are sufficiently competent, informed and supported in ways that makes it perfectly natural to work together effectively. Collaboration kicks into high gear. 

When we can appreciate complex dynamics like these, collaboration appears as an emergent outcome. It's not something we can make happen or administrate with policy requirements. It either catches on or it does not, depending on the kind of help that is received from others. 

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