To begin with, collaboration is not easy even in a face-to-face setting: it requires maturity (self-knowledge and self-management), an ability to create and maintain relationships over time, a commitment to discussion and debate and the acceptance of disagreement. In the same place, self-confidence, effective communication and managing power relations are necessary conditions when everyone shares the same reality and can express themselves based on it.
What difference does physical distance make?
There is no longer access to the same facts (other than those communicated) and fewer opportunities to communicate spontaneously, it is more difficult to understand situations in the moment (the interplay of actors and the stakes perceptible via non-verbal reactions), even though exchanges via tools limit the quality of communication and they are often misused.
So what can be done to recreate the conditions for remote collaboration?
It is a question of building a common framework for collaboration, communicating even more effectively and developing more efficient relationships.
Collaboration, cooperation, what are we talking about?
Collaborating (working together towards a common goal) is different from cooperating (doing together towards a common goal).
For Olivier Zara, collaboration and cooperation refer to helping each other to achieve a common goal.
Not seeking help
Adapted from Olivier Zara, managing collective intelligence
The collaborative posture involves helping and seeking help. It is based on the values of sharing, commitment, membership, responsibility and respect.
Insofar as the moments when we are all together in the same place are counted, it is a question of identifying the activities that require or benefit from the physical presence of all and those that can be carried out at a distance.
We will therefore distinguish between :
- Collaborate, which refers more to an intellectual dimension and to
Communication (exchanging objectives, strategy, ideas, knowledge, etc.)
- Cooperating is more about concrete activity (resources, space, etc.)
Face-to-face meetings are to be preferred when :
- We want to cooperate, i.e. do something together: make an object, film an operation...
- Or if you want to collaborate on complex subjects which require a fine perception of others (the positions, games and stakes of each), quality of interactions, confrontations and exchanges of information and a common experience: elaboration of a strategy, resolution of conflicts, regulations.