Collaboration: A Key Skill your Student Needs on her Resume

I wrote a previous post about the three C’s — the three skills your student needs to succeed in today’s economy.  ‘Collaborative, Communicative and Creative,’ according IBM’s 2012 CEO study of 1700 business leaders, are the most important personal characteristics for employees to succeed in today’s economy.

Creativitythe subject of a prior post, is an important skill that farsighted parents need to cultivate in their children.  In this post, we discuss what parents can do to help their children learn to be Collaborative.

Harvest: A Digital Tree Project by Leo Burnett

Harvest: A Digital Tree Project by Leo Burnett

Collaboration happens when two or more people or organizations work together to create, build, or solve something, each member contributing a unique idea, view or capability toward a shared goal.  Collaboration is learned by practicing and is about creating value with others.

According to Nilofer Merchant, author of 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #Social Era, ‘The industrial age was all about building things; the social age is all about connecting things, people and ideas. People and organizations will be rewarded by realizing that they don’t create value by themselves.


The short film  below describes a collaborative project at Leo Burnett Worldwide, a leading advertising agency. Two of Leo’s key design teams discuss the collaboration process used to create a new experience for attendees of Chicago Idea Week. Our son Nathan joined Leo last year and worked on this project. Nathan’s in the film — red hair and wearing glasses.  If you can’t view this video, click here.

Don’t assume that collaboration is a skill useful only in the ‘creative’ professions of advertising, design, product development or engineering. Out-performing companies in all industries collaborate more extensively internally and externally than do peer companies in their industry.

The more opportunities students have to practice collaboration, the better equipped they will be for the future. Here are ways farsighted parents can help their children learn the skills of collaboration:

  • Social skills are the building blocks of successful collaboration.  It’s been shown that social sensitivity improves the ‘collective intelligence’ of groups. This may sound intuitive but its counter to prior research that indicated the group member’s general intelligence is the strongest indicator of group performance. Group members who are sensitive to emotions and views of others and encourage their participation generally help the group achieve better results.
  • Cooperation activities offer a good training ground.  Cooperation requires similar skills as collaboration but with less complexity and challenge. Because collaborative is hard, you’ll likely find cooperative opportunities more available for your students. Examples of cooperative opportunities are playing team sports, selling girl scout cookies at the mall and volunteering on mission trips.  Good cooperative opportunities help students hone their social and personal skills.
  • Collaborative opportunities are more challenging; defining member roles can help.  Most students don’t like group projects because they either doubt their own abilities or don’t know how each member will be assessed. Grade conscious students end up taking on more than they should and the overall project suffers. Teachers and parents can help students collaborate more successful by helping them assume specific roles in the group.  For a film project, assign roles of director, director of photography, audio engineer, credits design.  A Girl Scout Cookie sales project needs roles of sales, marketing, finance, shipping, etc. Roles help keep projects on track but allow for ideas exchange among the group. Swapping roles during the project can also help student hone their skills.

Question:  What collaboration opportunities have your children or students enjoyed?  How do you teach collaboration to your child? Please share your ideas or thoughts here.  

This post is third in a series.  The first two are:

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