Three theoretical Angles on Collaboration

Collaboration is an essential part for any type of work. Proper cooperation is of particular importance in processes of change. However, various people cooperate for very different reasons. In this post I will present three different perspectives on the issue of cooperation.

Assumptions on Collaboration
Collaboration is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together in an intersection of common goals — for example, an intellectual endeavor that is creative in nature — by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus. Most collaboration requires leadership, although the form of leadership can be social within a decentralized and egalitarian group. In particular, teams that work collaboratively can obtain greater resources, recognition and reward when facing competition for finite resources. Collaboration is also present in opposing goals exhibiting the notion of adversarial collaboration, though this is not a common case for using the term.

Structured methods of collaboration encourage introspection of behavior and communication. These methods specifically aim to increase the success of teams as they engage in collaborative problem solving. Forms, rubrics, charts and graphs are useful in these situations to objectively document personal traits with the goal of improving performance in current and future projects.

Angle I: Trade Theory
The trade of goods is an economic activity providing mutual benefit. Trade originated with the start of communication in prehistoric times. Trading was the main facility of prehistoric people, who bartered goods and services from each other when there was no such thing as the modern day currency. Peter Watson dates the history of long-distance commerce from circa 150,000 years ago. Trade exists for many reasons. Due to specialization and division of labor, most people concentrate on a small aspect of production, trading for other products. Trade exists between regions because different regions have a comparative advantage in the production of some tradable commodity, or because different regions’ size allows for the benefits of mass production. As such, trade at market prices between locations benefits both locations.

Angle II: Game Theory
Game theory is a branch of applied mathematics and economics that looks at situations where multiple players make decisions in an attempt to maximize their returns. The first documented discussion of it is a letter written by James Waldegrave, 1st Earl Waldegrave in 1713. Antoine Augustin Cournot’s Researches into the Mathematical Principles of the Theory of Wealth in 1838 provided the first general theory. It was not until 1928 that this became a recognized, unique field when John von Neumann published a series of papers. Von Neumann’s work in game theory culminated in the 1944 book The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior by von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern. In 1950, the first discussion of the prisoner’s dilemma appeared, and an experiment was undertaken on this game at the RAND corporation.

Angle III: Project Management
As a discipline, Project Management developed from different fields of application including construction, engineering, and defense. In the United States, the forefather of project management is Henry Gantt, called the father of planning and control techniques, who is famously known for his use of the “bar” chart as a project management tool, for being an associate of Frederick Winslow Taylor’s theories of scientific management, and for his study of the work and management of Navy ship building. His work is the forerunner to many modern project management tools including the work breakdown structure (WBS) and resource allocation.

The 1950s marked the beginning of the modern project management era. Again, in the United States, prior to the 1950s, projects were managed on an ad hoc basis using mostly Gantt charts, and informal techniques and tools. At that time, two mathematical project scheduling models were developed:

  1. the “Program Evaluation and Review Technique” or PERT, developed as part of the United States Navy’s (in conjunction with the Lockheed Corporation) Polaris missile submarine program; and
  2. the “Critical Path Method” (CPM) developed in a joint venture by both DuPont Corporation and Remington Rand Corporation for managing plant maintenance projects. These mathematical techniques quickly spread into many private enterprises.

In 1969, the Project Management Institute (PMI) was formed to serve the interest of the project management industry. The premise of PMI is that the tools and techniques of project management are common even among the widespread application of projects from the software industry to the construction industry. In 1981, the PMI Board of Directors authorized the development of what has become A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), containing the standards and guidelines of practice that are widely used throughout the profession. The International Project Management Association (IPMA), founded in Europe in 1967, has undergone a similar development and instituted the IPMA Project Baseline. Both organizations are now participating in the development of a global project management standard.

Collaboration (Picture source:

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