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'Collaboration' is teamwork plus

'Collaboration' is teamwork plus

When Hewlett Packard decided to spin off its software division, executives wrestled with several possibilities for names that would succinctly express the essence of the value they planned to bring to customers. Their choice of name--CoCreate--tells the world that they have designed their CAD software to help engineers work more closely together--to collaborate--to leverage each other's strengths so the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts.

An elegant positioning statement? You bet, but the concept behind it is profound.

HP's executives said they were greatly influenced by the book No more teams!, written by Michael Schrage, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab and The Center for Coordination Science. On its surface, the book's title is misleading. Schrage isn't saying that teams are out, only that the word has become too politicized in organizations ("Hey, are you on the team or what?"), and doesn't truly express the nature or importance of effective collaboration today.

Collaboration is more intense than teamwork, which often comes down to in-dividuals assigned to doing separate tasks in a project. Instead, Schrage says, col-laboration is the development of a com-munal brain where individuals interact, feed on each other's ideas, question each other's assumptions, and build upon each other's work. It isn't always pretty: Good collaborators argue a lot as they improve on their colleagues' work.

Collaboration is important, Schrage says, because problems are becomming too complex for "lone rangers" with knowledge of only one or two specialties to solve. The solutions require the synergy of two or more people with complimentary skills who can build on each other's work. Example: the partnership of visionary Steve Jobs and technical wizard Steve Wozniak that resulted in the formation of Apple Computer.

The Design News Engineering Achievement Awards winners you'll read about in the following pages are true technical geniuses, individuals whose efforts have made a major difference in their industries and our lives. Yet, they would all support the notion that collaboration is essential in the product development process. In fact, the most common statement that our winners every year make in our interviews is, "I didn't do this alone, a lot of people helped."

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