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What Collaboration Isn’t

The benefits of Collaboration and Collaborative Working have been promoted for some thirty years by Constructing Excellence through various reports and initiatives – all as ‘fresh’ and pertinent today as they were when written and published. Yet as a way of working Collaboration has yet to be fully accepted and adopted as a powerful way of working by the sector. Why?

Part of the problem is that many leaders and their organisations believe that they are ‘doing it’ whereas the reality is that they are not. The second part of the problem is that leaders really don’t understand Collaboration.

There are two different problems here with this article’s focus being on the second part of the problem.

As a starting point an AI search on ‘what is the opposite of collaboration’ revealed that there are 7 key areas that prevent collaboration. Fascinatingly, these 7 points were actually confirmed through our research published earlier this year in January. This research revealed that the very beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that are played out everyday by leaders and their people across the sector are exactly ‘What Collaboration Isn’t’ with these being:

· Individualism – ‘Leadership is organisational centric and thus vertically focused’ with ‘individual and organisational goals get[ting] in the way of working collaboratively’.

· Lack of Communication – ‘Communication is vertical within each organisation with limited flow between the organisations’ with ‘meetings being poorly co-ordinated with little if any collaborative problem-solving’.

· Competition – ‘People come with ‘win-lose’ mindsets’ with ‘people guarding both their organisations and territory’.

· Hoarding resources – ‘Organisations do little to no planning together so hindering collaboration and daily working’ so that ‘when there is a problem things can quickly turn to finger pointing’.

· Resistance to learning – ‘Organisations are selected for a contract on the basis of cost without regard to whether their cultures align or foster Collaboration’ with ‘People receiving no training in the principles of collaboration nor how to work collaboratively’ that results in ‘a failure to recognise and understand the costs of disagreement and disputes’.

· Siloed Working – ‘There is a lack of desire between the organisations to create an overarching agreed objective that brings them together to Collaborate’ with ‘existing organisational structures and processes remaining unchanged’.

· Lack of Trust – ‘People are wary of trusting, sharing and building relationships with others’ with ‘past poor relationships influencing the current relationship and the current situation’

It is only by acknowledging that these are ‘What Collaboration Isn’t’ that the sector can begin to commit to the changes and transformation it needs to make if it is to succeed in an increasingly complex and challenging environment.

CICI was established to drive and help support organisations and their people in working more collaboratively and effectively through providing training and development services based upon evidence – this and continued research. To understand more you can read the CICI Research Report of January 2023 in full depth at

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