For pretty much everything such as education, startup incubators, and hedge funds WEquil Group has approached it with First Principles thinking. We have done the same with collaboration. Many organizations function by having someone at the top tell everybody what to do, and everyone below has to execute. Our approach is what we call self-directed collaboration and is a radical approach to collaboration within teams trying to achieve something big. In this article I will explain what this approach is, what is required in order for it to work, and the benefits and downsides of this approach.
Self-directed collaboration is essentially an approach where there is a goal and members within the team think about how they can use their strengths to add the most value. This enables flexibility for individuals to have influence over what they work on, and also allows them to have input over what they think the goal should be. The self-directed bit of this approach allows for pretty much complete control over what you want to do, how you want to do it, and how it will play into what other people are working on to effectively reach the goal. But this will not work if you aren’t able to collaborate with others.
The first step to collaborating effectively using this approach is to have a defined goal. As mentioned earlier individuals can have a say in what they think the goal should be. The next thing that is crucial is socializing what you think is the best next step for you. This is so everyone can have input into whether or not they think that next step is beneficial to working towards the goal. One thing that can be a challenge if not solved is letting everyone know what you are working on at all times. In order to collaborate you need to know how what you are doing fits into what others are doing. You can use many tools such as Trello or daily updates to let the other members of your team know what you are working on, but any solution will work if it is letting everyone know what everyone is doing.
Something that is very helpful is also socializing your improvements before they are completely finished. Since you are self-directed and deciding what you want to work on, others may not like what you have done once it is finished. It is a waste of time and resources if you spend a whole bunch of time trying to make something perfect and it ends up not being helpful. You want to quickly throw something together and make something that just communicates the idea of what you are trying to do. Then, socialize this so team members can see the direction you are going in and provide feedback before it is completed.
In this approach there really are no clear “bosses” or people telling you what to do. The benefit is that you have members utilizing what they are good at to add the most value. But it also means that it is not for everybody. You need team members that can take initiative, handle feedback, and have their own ideas. Pretty much everyone can do what they are told and follow directions but this approach cannot be done without the skills listed above. An extremely effective way to collaborate within teams can fall apart quickly if you aren't socializing your ideas, improvements, and changes.
In the WEquil.App team we use self-directed collaboration. It isn’t for everybody but for those who are entrepreneurially minded, and can take initiative it could be the best team for you. If this is something that you are interested in you can join our Sink or Swim program where we see if you can thrive using this approach.