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If you have ever worked with a group on a project, you probably understand that teamwork doesn’t always come easily. Social collaboration, when executed properly, can be rewarding, productive and participatory, resulting in better outcomes than individuals working alone. However, working with others requires concentration, effort and cooperation, and it can be challenging to stay on task and achieve goals.

Take the obstacles out of working with others by using these tried and true social collaboration techniques.

1. Be structured.

Nothing is worse than a disorganized project meeting that lasts for hours and accomplishes very little. Before you schedule a brainstorm or kick-off meeting for your project, determine what your initial goals are (for example: choose one idea for the annual fundraising event and narrow down the list of potential vendors) so you won’t get distracted later. Keep the rules for effective meetings in mind as you start the planning process and develop an agenda.

2. Share resources. 

Notify team members who are involved in the project, and share any materials that people should review before the first meeting. For large files, avoid sending email attachments and instead try file sharing technology, such as Dropbox or YouSendIt. For more advanced collaboration, there are a wealth of online tools, such as MindMeister, Basecamp, Wikispaces and Google docs/spreadsheets. Progressive organizations will employ these new communication skills at work.

3. Determine a location. 

With new technology, social collaboration can now take place in person or virtually. If your team will be able to work together in the same physical location, reserve a space with plenty of table and wall space. Bring in a whiteboard, a large flip chart or sticky notes and markers for keeping track of ideas. If you are meeting with people in different locations, schedule a conference call or video meeting (Skype 5.0 just released a beta version of group video calling)and use online tools to stay on the same page.

4. Come to a consensus. 

When working on a group project, there are bound to be a lot of ideas, some viable and some not. In the initial brainstorming phase, let all ideas flow without any questions or judgments. Write down everything and then start to narrow down the list as a group. Listen more than you talk, ask questions and build upon the ideas of others. Narrow down your list to three possibilities, and divide up into smaller groups to flesh out all of the ideas. Talk about each one as a larger group and finally come to a consensus on which idea to select and what the next steps should be.

What social collaboration techniques do you use in your organization?

For more on working productively in groups, check out the Roles and Responsibilities on Teams course.  

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