A Lesson From Grammy Winners Daft Punk on Why Collaboration Works

I’m not a Daft Punk expert – unless you count listening to Get Lucky non-stop when driving my son and his friends to the beach last summer.

This French robot-headed duo won big at the Grammy Awards Sunday night, including best album for Random Access Memories.

Their robot heads with their tuxes were eye-catching, but so was something else.

In business, collaboration gets a bad rap

As they went to the stage to collect their awards, they were never alone. And, they never spoke. They were joined by Pharrell Williams, Paul Williams, back from the 1970s and 80’s, and other combinations of musicians. In fact, Random Access Memories had over 10 active and notable contributors to the album.

Their work, including Random Access Memories, was a collaboration. It wasn’t just about them.

In spite of Daft Punk’s success with collaboration, I still find this word carries baggage in business. I facilitated a leadership workshop recently and we played word association with the word “collaboration.” I wrote the words this leadership group shared on my flip chart:

  • Slow;
  • Group think;
  • Can lack focus;
  • Inefficient.

The leadership group said they believed in collaboration, yet their top of mind responses to the word said otherwise. This group envisioned wandering meetings, fruitless brainstorming sessions, and input with no outcomes.

Well thought out, with a desired outcome

If it’s a basic task, process, or crisis, then, yes, “collaboration” may live up to some of these words. But with a change, collaboration is essential because you can’t do it alone.

After this session, I decided that “collaboration” needs a PR campaign.

Collaboration is much more than asking everyone for their ideas. Productive collaboration needs a well thought out process and a purpose that is transparent to everyone.

It doesn’t happen by bringing a group together and asking them to join hands and collaborate. It is very intentional, with a desired outcome.

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Collaboration takes focus, guidance, a process, and oversight. Ask for input and collaboration where you need it, not on outcomes that are predetermined or non-negotiable.

Collaboration also helps you build momentum, even when it seems slower at first. There are tools and technology today that make virtual and global collaboration easier than ever before. Are you using them?

What to ask when you want to collaborate

Here are a few questions to ask when you want to collaborate:

  1. What is my desired outcome or goal?
  2. What knowledge and experience will make my change or plan better?
  3. Who brings this needed knowledge and how can I get them involved?
  4. What simple process will we follow to collaborate effectively?
  5. Have I approached my plan in a way that encourages and expects collaboration?
  6. How can I ensure that my plan is iterative and flexible so that collaboration is valued, not an obstacle?
  7. What tools and technology can I use to enable and encourage collaboration?
  8. If anything gets in my way on collaboration, what will it be? And, what can I do about it?

There’s no need to buy a robot suit, yet you can follow Daft Punk’s lead and make your own album by involving the talent around you and others that you have to go find.

You can’t do it alone.

This was originally published on PeopleResult’s Current blog.

Patti Johnson is the CEO of PeopleResults, a change and organizational development consulting firm she founded in 2004. She is the author of newly released "Make Waves: Be the One to Start Change at Work and in Life." Patti and her team advise clients such as PepsiCo, Microsoft, 7-Eleven, Accenture, Frito-Lay and many others on creating positive change in their leaders and organizations. Previously a Senior Executive at Accenture. Patti is an instructor on change for SMU Executive Education and for the Bush Institute Women’s Initiative, as well as a keynote speaker on change and leadership.

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