Think Like an Editor blog by Steve Davis and Emilie Davis, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University

Competition vs. collaboration

By · Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

We’ve written several posts about collaboration because working together is such an important way to accomplish a goal. It’s also an opportunity to learn new skills. But it won’t work if competition gets in the way.

How do you separate the two? Here are some tips:

>   When you truly collaborate, you’ll be just as excited about a team member’s successes as your own. Actually, you all will benefit from a positive end result.

>   When you collaborate, you’ll find yourself acknowledging another person’s skills as an important contribution to the project.

>   When you collaborate, you’ll reach out to people around you, inviting them to participate and looking to them not only for support but to lead.

>   When you collaborate, you won’t care about who gets credit as long as the team gets credit.

>   When you collaborate, you’ll use “we” and “us” more than “I” and “me.”

There’s a proper place for competition, but it isn’t in a collaborative setting. Watch for these warning signs that competition might get in the way of progress or attack you from the outside:

>   A team member is not readily available for meetings or agrees to meet and then cancels.

>   A person who is talented and skilled in a particular area does not respond when invited to work together on a project — or declines to participate.

>   Someone not involved in a project at all speaks openly and negatively as an observer about what the team is “doing wrong.”

>   A team member seems to care more about the division of labor by hours instead of by skills, which won’t necessarily take the same amount of a person’s time.

>   When problems or issues arise, a team member takes them to people outside the team instead of bringing them up with fellow team members.

The best collaborative experiences are the ones where team members follow through on their assignments, do more than is expected, bring a positive attitude to the team, and work with enthusiasm and energy.

The most effective collaborators focus more on solutions than on problems, aren’t hesitant to ask for assistance from someone who knows more, treat fellow team members with respect, and show an unselfish work ethic.

Multimedia journalists, especially newcomers to the profession, will find that sometimes collaboration is the only way to accomplish a small assignment or a major project. In today’s newsrooms, fewer journalists are expected to do more — something else we’ve written about extensively. With that knowledge going forward, why wouldn’t anyone strive for collaboration instead of competition?

 

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