Collaboration: A Paradigm Shift

Creating a Collaborative Environment

Today, many of us in the pain community find ourselves in the age of information, technology and collaborative tools. As a result, we also discover that there has been a “paradigm shift” in the approach to solving common problems. Because of the internet and collaborative tools, top to bottom hierarchies are less prevalent, and a peer to peer system has emerged as an efficient way to tackle shared problems through crowdsourcing.

How has crowdsourcing shared problems offer us an “opportunity to re-think and re-invent conventional processes?”

Buzz words like “crowdfunding, transparency, remaining fluid, adding value, subject matter experts, merit, transparency and contributions” have become terms associated with using collaborative tools. With that said, the purpose of this web page is to examine some ideas about how we can effectively crowdsource a common problem utilizing collaborative tools. We will also compare and contrast how collaborative tools have disrupted traditional leadership in favor of collaborative leadership.


Let’s take a closer examination of the term “crowdsourcing,” and what it means to “crowdsource” a common problem.

Below is a brief explanation of “crowdsourcing” by titled “What is Crowdsourcing?”

The article states:

Crowdsourcing is the practice of engaging a ‘crowd’ or group for a common goal — often innovation, problem solving, or efficiency. It is powered by new technologies, social media and web 2.0.10. Crowdsourcing can take place on many different levels and across various industries. Thanks to our growing connectivity, it is now easier than ever for individuals to collectively contribute — whether with ideas, time, expertise, or funds — to a project or cause.

“The collective mobilization to solve a common problem is crowd-sourcing.”

“This phenomenon can provide organizations with access to new ideas and solutions, deeper consumer engagement, opportunities for co-creation, optimization of tasks, and reduced costs. The Internet and social media have brought organizations closer to their stakeholders, laying the groundwork for new ways of collaborating and creating value together like never before.”

“The future is human-centric, all about participation and the ability to co-create via an increasingly connected world. This new way of doing things – crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, co-creation, collaboration, and open innovation – is challenging business models and workings of organizations across the board, offering an immense opportunity to rethink and reinvent conventional processes.”

As a community advocating for pain patients, we will need to embrace opportunities to rethink and reinvent conventional processes to be successful.

A Paradigm Shift: Traditional vs. Collaborative Leadership

So, how has collective problem solving evolved in the age of information, technology and collaborative tools?

How has crowdsourcing offered us an “opportunity to re-think and re-invent conventional processes?”

In the article, “Between Traditional and Collaborative Leaders” posted by jartese on Nov 8th, 2013 on  the author describes in more detail how a collaborative environment differs from a traditional business or work setting by stating:


Traditional Leaders: The traditional corporate approach to power is one of singular authority. Traditional leaders in the corporate world believe that their power derives from their position of authority. Old school corporate hierarchy often bestows power based on longevity with a secondary look at prior results. The longer you stay with your firm, the farther up the ladder you progress, the greater your power.

Collaborative Leaders: The new approach of collaborative leadership recognizes that power is greatest in a collective team. By encouraging equal participation across all levels, collaborative leaders allow solutions to develop from the best ideas of the group and take a team approach to problem solving.


Traditional: Maintaining ownership of information is the hallmark of traditional leaders. From a power perspective, information is power. Releasing information on a “need to know” basis allows traditional leaders to maintain authority and control.

Collaborative:  Open information sharing is the cornerstone of collaborative leadership. Getting everyone on the same page in a project requires information sharing. Education also plays a role. The more cross training available, the more creative approaches to problem solving can develop and be implemented.

Idea Generation

Traditional:  Traditional managers will occasionally entertain suggestions or be open to ideas from their team.  In a top down hierarchy, the decisions generally come from the executives at the top of the food chain. Because information is closely held, management may know of circumstances that drive the decision-making process that may be withheld from team members.

Collaborative: The art of collaboration gives everyone on the team a voice. Leaders are generally open to suggestions and ideas from their team and recognize that brainstorming and different perspectives can bring unique insights.

Problem Solving

Traditional: In a traditional corporate culture, solutions are generally delivered to team members. These decisions are made in the boardroom or the executive suite, approved and passed on.

Collaborative: In a collaborative environment, solutions are brainstormed among team members and facilitated by management. Collaborative leaders recognize the power of a group approach to problem solving.

Resource Allocation

Traditional: The traditional approach to resource allocation is generally reactive. Resources are provided only when deemed necessary by upper management and often brought to a committee for approval prior to deployment. This process takes time and focus away from a project and can result in stress being placed on the team by forcing them to deal with issues or challenges without the necessary resources.

Collaborative: A collaborative environment is based on trust and resources may be delivered proactively. Team leaders will enable their teams to flourish by providing resources and allocating time, quickly. This allows projects to develop more rapidly, as employees have access to the corporate resources (time, money, materials) necessary to do their jobs efficiently.

Rules and Responsibilities

Traditional: Traditional corporate culture relies on a series of rules, regulations and a hierarchy that force managers and team leaders to adhere to specific roles and responsibilities for both them and their teams. This can stifle the creative process and result in team members working in relative isolation as information and resources are shared and provided on a “needs” basis.

Collaborative: In a collaborative environment teams are encouraged to work together. Information, resources, knowledge, time and effort are shared. This allows roles and responsibilities to evolve and fluctuate based on the greater good.

Resolving Issues

Traditional:  In a traditional culture issues are often dealt with on an individual basis with no regard to the root cause of the problem. This keeps managers fighting fires instead of instituting beneficial change that could prevent issues from arising.

Collaborative: The basis of collaborative leadership is trust. Because team members are given more responsibility for their work, leaders are often more involved in the process. This means that as issues arise they are often dealt with swiftly. Collaborative leaders look for the root cause of conflict as it arises, and address solutions promptly to keep work moving forward.

Performance and Feedback

Traditional: Most traditional corporations practice a semi-annual or annual review process based on corporate policy. This can be detrimental to employee morale. If an employee has had a banner year, but in the last month missed a deadline or a project they were managing ran over budget, it can result in a negative performance review. This can damage morale and increase turnover as employees who feel they were unfairly judged may seek greener pastures elsewhere.

Collaborative: The nature of a collaborative environment means that leaders and team members are equally valued and work closely together on a daily basis. This gives the opportunity for immediate feedback, praise and constructive criticism. A collaborative environment is nurturing and offers the opportunity to share knowledge and educate members on an ongoing basis. Collaborative leaders often share their knowledge and experience by offering ongoing personalized coaching to other team members.

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