3 min read

8 conditions for effortless collaboration

Innovation rarely happens alone. It’s when minds come together that real change, growth and ideas flourish.

Finding willing collaborators is just the start. But without the right conditions, going head first into a collaboration is not guaranteed to succeed. In fact it could even end up in a negative position.

Through our client work at Humble Associates, we’ve learnt that 3 basic conditions are a must have for any effective collaboration (and subsequent innovation) to take place.


Collaborations only truly work if each person involved is both providing and receiving value​. It doesn’t have to be monetary or transactional value, just make sure there’s a balanced exchange of some description.


Collaborations require vulnerability. With this, trust is built and a safe, open space is invited to appear.

Don’t kid yourself that it will always be rosy. If you fall into the fallacy of self-censoring the relationships risk becoming based on a distorted image of reality​.

As for giving and receiving feedback – without trust, forget it!

Authentic human connection

Authentic connection is like charisma, quite hard to define but you know it when it’s there.​ Without it, a collaboration can quite quickly becomes stale even if there’s value and trust.​ It’s not that people have to be besties to collaborate, sometimes healthy competition can be great grounds for collaboration.

Here’s a quick story about collaboration…

About 6 months ago TK and I met Carolyn and Fiona, co-founders of the Hustle House. At first we were quite excited to vent and share stories with other small business owners with similar challenges to us. Our chats were fun and had lots of value. But then we started thinking about collaborating, possibly even co-hosting an event.

Now, both of our companies actually operate in the same market so there was a risk we could end up stepping on each other’s toes when it comes to existing and potential new customers. Trust and vulnerability were necessary to have a frank conversation about how to avoid muscling in on each other’s clients. We had to figure out if there was mutual value. We knew we already had the authentic connection, but that in itself wasn’t enough. Luckily we decided to offer trust and find a way forward.

Last week we ran an event together – Innovation through collaboration, demonstrating first hand exactly what the event was about. Ours wasn’t the only great collaboration that came from the event. We helped the attendees create the top 3 conditions before facilitating them towards a shared outcome of collaborating and innovating around even more conditions for collaboration. Here’s what they came up with:


I love this one and completely support the idea that being willing to actively give would absolutely contribute to a great collaboration.

Common purpose / Shared values

Do you all want the same thing? Are you aligned on the ‘why? Are your intentions joined up?

Mutual respect

This suggests a level of extra depth to the relationship and something that would enable even more trust and generosity.


The ability to put yourself in one another’s shoes and to accept different points of view is a key that can unlock innovation.

Ready to take action

This final condition is a great way to end this list. Agreeing that action is wanted and considering the speed at which the collaborators want to move and progress is absolutely vital.

In knowledge work the ability to work well with others towards a common goal is paramount. If you run your own business, clients need to know they’re working with you in a collaborative partnership.

The next time you seek a collaborator, or you’re invited to collaborate, consider these 8 conditions and when they exist, enjoy this becoming effortless!

Which is the most important to you? What would you add to the list?