Teamwork: Collaboration, sharing, and all the stuff we should stop talking about and just do.

Spain La Liga Soccer, originally uploaded by NotiZulia.

OK? Last time I talked about collaboration here it was right after Spain won the World Cup and I used them as an example. Now I’m revisiting it a few weeks after most of the La Furia Roja played against each other in El Clásico. Barcelona embarrassed Madrid, smashing them 5-0. Barca played true to their traditional form: tight, cohesive teamwork, amazing passing, and as a unit. Madrid couldn’t cope. (Here’s a great infographic looking at passing via Xavi vs. Xabi.

Enough about El Clásico, what does Messi and Xavi’s embrace have to do with librarians collaborating (or not)? This picture sort of represents the best and worst of librarians collaborating.

We talk a big game of sharing and openness, but how much do we actually practice? There are some who really embrace the open culture. Will tell you anything you need and more. This is especially important when you’re working on a group project and everybody needs to be on the same page, but that also requires everybody to trust one another. That is, I’m finding, a a tall order. For me, lack of trust is based in my own insecurities, control-freak tendencies, and past experience of being burned. BUT! (And I’m really trying to work on this…) Past experiences should caution but not totally hinder/block going forward. You need to have trust and faith in your team as much as you want them place their trust and faith in you. Otherwise, those roadblocks are clear indicators that there’s no trust which most likely also translates into no respect.

Of course, the other thing with being part of a team is that you need all parts to be together. Going back to Barcelona (and even the Spanish National Team), they play in a style that requires the whole team to be a unit. Lots of passing. Lots of communication. The Madrids (or Chelseas), are not as cohesive. They have lots of big, expensive names, but don’t do much collectively. Think about a library full of (eww) rockstar librarians. If everybody is trying to be the big name and take the lead, it’s not going to work as much as if people put their egos down and work together.

This sort of goes back to my own glories on the pitch this weekend. (Disclosure: I’m a pretty awful left-back, but I try.) My team was missing our key midfielders, and the opposing team had a strong set of attacking midfielders and strikers. My team won 5-0 though because we really communicated and played well together. Now if only I could do that in the professional arena.

Collaboration and Teamwork – practice makes perfect.

So the 2010 World Cup ended this past Sunday and I’m going through withdrawals. (I am a bit fanatical about football/soccer. I’m card carrying member of Wednesdayite, that’s seriously a burden of love.) So pardon me, if I use a picture of La Furia Roja to illustrate this post that I’ve been thinking about for some time.

There’s a cliche we joke with here at my work: “When it’s teamwork, it doesn’t seem work.” Feel free to roll your eyes, but it’s sort of true. If you can work and collaborate as a team, it can make things more enjoyable and less tedious. Idle chit chat can work wonders. I think lots of people could agree on that. Teamwork is also important for committees and group projects. Writing a strategic plan? Need lots of input? Work together! Again, it can make something bearable. This isn’t really a new concept and I think most people would agree on it.

My problem (other than the way England performed at the World Cup) is that I’m tired of the culture that we will only collaborate or share in formal settings. It’s all fine and dandy to have a committee to tackle a group project, but how can you find out a committee is required? What if it’s not so codified?

What I’m getting at is that I want librarians to be more open with what they’re doing with their colleagues. This goes for all of us. It sort of reminds me of some of the talks I’ve had about data sharing – people want to see other people’s stuff but don’t want to have to share their own. Perhaps this is residual from SLA networking, but it just astonishes me how little we know about what each of us do. I want to know about your work minutiae because you might have a technique to tackle it that I could borrow, or vice versa. Yeah, we all have different jobs and different responsibilities, but none of this are really all that unique. I say this as a member of a relatively small cadre of transportation librarians.

The thing that killed me recently was seeing one of my colleagues talking about an idea that they had which there is actually a committee working on tackling. This person, rather than participating in said committee, has decided they need to write a formal proposal on their own and then present it to the group (which group?) later. This seems akin to playing basketball by themselves when there’s a game they could join the next court over. They might want to play with others, but it has to be on their terms. I can understand wanting to have organized thoughts and a proposal, but if there is a group already working on the problem, get involved! Otherwise you’re just adding to the silos.

Last week I sort of put a call out to my colleagues about a project I’m working on – making a taxonomy for navigating/organizing transportation websites – looking for potential collaborators and just to let people know what I’m thinking about. It was great because turns out somebody else is working on the same thing. I made it clear that I wanted to work together because I want whatever the outcome is to be usable for as many people as possible, so they don’t have to do this work. It was not revolutionary, but it’s also not a common goal (without a committee that is).

So what’s the point? I think we need to promote a culture of sharing and openness of practically everything. Not just finished projects, but just sharing your work opens up opportunities for collaboration and working with people you might not even think about. It’s amazing how it also sort of humanizes people. (“Oh you’re doing that on top of all that other stuff? Wow. Nevermind about my silly request…”) If you value the community, you need to be a part of it. Networks need nodes to have value, so be a good node!

Really? What are you up to? I want to know!