Making collaborative work actually work


Back in January I went to a lecture where LOLCats was pointed to as the next phase in artistic creation. Copyright-free images of cats are paired with text that some other Internet smartass can concoct, and many lulz are had. It’s funny, it’s trivial…it’s one of the most popular sites on the Internet at the moment, and it does something that the Internet has been intended to do for a very long time: facilitate collaboration.

I’m a Scorpio, so I’ve learned to accept the fact that I prefer to do my work and projects alone. It’s why I work for myself whenever I have a choice in the matter, or why I choose jobs that require as little supervision as possible. Everything gets done, it just has to be on my schedule or I get all stressed out and miserable.

I’m going to have to work on that – because for me to get anywhere in the type of books I want to write, interviews and collaboration are a huge part of that. In Urban Wicca, I’m running a series of worksheets for assessing major cities and I’ll need to trust residents in those cities to fill those out and get them back to me. I also have to get some cooperation and collaboration to do interviews for the divorce and Wicca book, and any interaction with the neopagan community has to have a collaborative approach.

So, just as much for myself as for anyone working with me, here are my guidelines to collaboration:

1)Be clear. It’s worth the extra long conversations to make sure everyone knows what they want out of the process. But also be patient – some people are visionary and can project a future, choosing a specific symbol or action to represent the culmination of a project. Others can’t see past the paperwork.

2)Play to everyone’s strengths. I’m good at organizing, hitting deadlines and figuring out the small tasks along the way. Someone else might be better at chatting people up and networking – you get the idea.

3)Accept that not everything will be ideal. If it isn’t perfect or exactly how you pictured it, it’s OK. As long as it serves the function it was intended to – and delivers the message it was intended to – you’re OK.

4)Let go of your expectations a little. Sometimes the message or final product will change, and that can be a good thing. Be willing to see how things work even if it’s not as you had envisioned them.

5)Have an end point. There’s a certain point where everyone needs to go off and do their own thing, permanently or temporarily. Having a date or a “when this happens” will help.