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February 01, 2013

Learning the Value of Collaboration

February 01, 2013

This week was my third Factory Week since becoming a SmallBoxer, and almost definitely my favorite. Last year, I mainly focused on MFT-related work, but my direct involvement with SmallBox is steadily increasing. At first, I worried that this Factory Week would cause me more stress and anxiety than most, but in fact, my experience has been quite the opposite. The key to enjoying my week of working on internal projects with my fellow SmallBoxers? Collaboration. (Which also happens to be one of our "core values".)

At some point on Monday, I was discussing an email link-styling issue with Nick. He asked a few questions, then he mentioned the way he likes to approach link-styling by inserting pieces of code only after all the links have been added, instead of trying to add in the html code as he goes, the silly time-consuming way I had been doing it. This simple interaction reinforced an important lesson that I need to remember every now and then: I don't know everything, and other people's ideas can be way better than mine.

high five

This is the heart of collaboration for me, and once the initial spark had occurred, my mind quickly caught fire with constant thoughts about how collaboration improves work.

You see, I've always been kind of a lone wolf as an artist, musician, or manager of pretty much anything I attempt to do. Sometimes that approach works. When you have a vision, and you know exactly what you want, doing everything yourself can be the most reliable way to get to the end goal. But the older I get, the more I've realized that I can be inefficient, arrogant, and even completely wrongheaded at times. So the ability to ask other people for help or ideas on how to improve a project has become essential.

This week, I've observed the ways my colleagues interact, the ways they debate and brainstorm, the ways that they work together to make every project achieve maximum awesomeness. The entire team seems to believe that all individuals are capable of making good decisions, but true greatness only seems to come as a result of working together.

Collaboration also helps give us the courage to do things we might be hesitant to do otherwise, like the Daily Random Nicing activities I've been doing with Kasey. It also adds strength in numbers, and lets team members bounce ideas off one another before bringing them to the larger group. Collaboration also builds stronger relationships, which is vital in a professional setting.

Yesterday, when we realized that we wouldn't have the new SmallBox site ready to launch by the end of the week, we were naturally disappointed, but I think there's an upside to that minor setback. It means that we collaborated successfully, and it allows us to collaborate more before the launch. Sure, things slowed down and took longer than we anticipated, but this was because all members in the team were dedicated to making every page count. Besides, what would be the point of launching a site we can't all be proud of?

At the end of this Factory Week, I'm looking forward to working with my fellow SmallBoxers on more projects. Instead of my old "lone wolf" style, I'm starting to prefer working with the smart and talented people who are around me all the time. Ever since "community builder" became one of my job descriptions, I've struggled with what that means. I'm beginning to see it as a call to collaborate, communicate, and cultivate understanding around how much more effective any community can be if they are willing to work together to achieve their common goals. How has collaboration improved or changed the way you work within a team? Have you had a moment of clarity while working in a group setting recently?

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