Reader Response: Do They Teach True Collaboration In Schools?

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I received an extremely well written and thoughtful comment from Bleu Panda regarding my article on 5 Crucial Subjects Schools Don’t Cover That You Should At Home so I thought I’d respond to his comment in a blog entry as a token of my appreciation. Please take the time to read his comment below followed by my reply

Thanks for the being open and honest in your posts. I’ve really enjoyed reading some of them and look forward to the rest, as well as future ones.

Regarding your post about 5 crucial subjects schools don’t cover, I would suggest another one that isn’t really taught – collaboration. You may have alluded to it in the section on how to deal with people or in other entries about entrepreneurship, but perhaps you may have some additional thoughts

Team Work

Photo By Capra Royale

on it. I think it would be helpful to learn about collaboration early on in our lives. When we were young, we were taught to share, which was somewhat enforced in school through projects, etc. But I don’t recall emphasis being placed on true collaboration, which I am sure is vital to entrepreneurial ventures.

As early as elementary school, and throughout high school and college, we were instilled with the mentality to be individually competitive. I have found that in the real world, I’ve had to learn how to not only work in teams, but also enable my team to work with and learn from other groups, which creates quite a dynamic. I have also had to learn how to influence others without authority. I think in order to be successful, especially in a progressively global economy, we have to learn how to effectively leverage the resources around us, the most vital being people. Throughout your ventures, what was your experience collaborating with others beyond your wife? Were those experiences not only helpful, but also necessary to your success?

My Thoughts On Collaboration

While I think collaboration is a crucial part of a child’s education, it actually never crossed my mind that this subject was missing from my school’s curriculum. I can’t speak for schools elsewhere, but my high school did a fantastic job of teaching collaboration through group projects and team activities.

A good example of this was with the annual science fair held at our school. One of the rules of the fair was that every student had to work in groups of three and present a project to the rest of the school. Everyone took it seriously because the top projects then went on to the state fair where actual monetary prizes were awarded.

The catch was that the teacher often randomly assigned the groups of three. More often than not, you would be assigned to work with students of completely different backgrounds, interests and egos. When such a team is forced upon you, you have to learn to adapt and get along with each other quickly otherwise things can spiral out of control.

Another way my school taught collaboration was through team sports. Sports like football, basketball, baseball and volleyball all require you and the other members of the team to practice, get along and depend on each other during a game. That is why I believe that team sports are so vital to a childs’ development. My daughter’s only 9 months old, but I’m already trying to figure out what sports she’s going to play:)

True Collaboration

But Bleu Panda brings up an interesting point. They don’t really teach true collaboration in schools. What is “true collaboration”? True collaboration to me is when different people working on totally different projects help each other out even when there isn’t any mutual benefit in doing so. In the purest sense, true collaboration is providing assistance and working together without expecting anything in return.

Schools tend to promote the opposite. We are constantly compared to our peers whether it be through class rank, grades or various other sponsored contests. Sometimes our science fairs became so competitive that some groups tried to sabotage each others experiments. There was very little collaboration across different teams and it always felt like every man for himself. I think the overall fun factor and quality of the science fair could have been much improved with a more collaborative atmosphere rather than an ultra competitive one.

The reality of it all is that we live in a competitive and cutthroat world. The idealist in me would like to see a much more collaborative atmosphere, but the realist in me also sees the need to compete and watch your own back. It’s ultimately up to you to determine the right balance for yourself.

Collaboration And Entrepreneurship

Bleu Panda also asked “Throughout your ventures, what was your experience collaborating with others beyond your wife? Were those experiences not only helpful, but also necessary to your success?”.

After collaborating with my wife, working with everyone else was like a piece of cake:) Seriously though, my wife and I collaborate with many people everyday whether it be vendors, customers or partners. In general, we always try to be as helpful as we can towards everyone. Often times, we go out of our way to help people out.

One of the main things I’ve learned with entrepreneurship is that if you provide assistance to others without expecting anything in return, you’ll inevitably receive more back than you initially gave.

It’s kind of ironic how it always works out that way. Good will breeds good will which ultimately leads to mutual success.

This concept can best be illustrated through an experience we had with one of our customers. This particular customer wanted to make her wedding extra special by hand crafting all of the wedding favors for her guests. Ultimately, her ideas did not involve the use of our products but we helped her out anyways by searching for the necessary materials from other stores online. We probably spent several hours helping her for no money at all.

Shortly after we did this, she referred our company to her friend who happened to be a wedding caterer and we’ve since gotten a ton of business from this person. What if we hadn’t been so helpful? What if we just brushed this customer off? Chances are we would have missed out on a great business opportunity.

It just goes to show that you never know when someone you’ve helped in the past will come back to help you out in the future. It has become our policy to collaborate closely with our customers and our vendors to figure out ways to better serve each other. Inevitably, heated situations will arise, but never burn any bridges and be as helpful as you can!

Influence Without Authority

I just wanted to touch on Bleu Panda’s last statement regarding influence without authority. The power of influence is critical to the success of any individual. Just because you have authority over someone doesn’t mean that you have the power to influence them.

As an example, I’ve worked with several managers in the past with whom I did not respect. Even though they had the power to fire me, I never really took them seriously because I didn’t look up to them at all. Their words basically carried no weight.

The power of influence is a natural by-product of self-confidence. By instilling a sense of self worth and self-respect within your child, you can be sure that they will have the power and authority to influence other kids.

Further Reading

Who here thinks Bleu Panda should start his own blog?

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4 thoughts on “Reader Response: Do They Teach True Collaboration In Schools?”

  1. I’ll be honest … I am a solopreneur for a reason. Not that I don’t eventually want to hire an assistant (shooting for January). I am in favor of joint ventures and helping others, and allowing them to help you. What goes around, comes around.

    But collaboration? Nothing kills my creativity more quickly than trying to create within a team! I’m just saying, it’s very stimulating for some, and stifling for others. To each his own …


  2. Hi Andrea,

    I think it depends on the scale of the project. For example, at my current company, we create technology that requires 100’s of pieces that all need to come together. No 1 person could possibly do it alone. As a result, over 10 groups must collaborate and piece things together so that our product as a whole works properly.

  3. Jennifer says:

    I second that, Bleu Panda start his own Blog. I truly enjoyed the content. As a matter of fact, I have taken great interest in wanting to start a blog myself. Steve, Any tips and/or advice will greatly appreciated!

    Have an “AWESOME” Day! **)

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