Collaboration Theory

Theories of collaboration exist at the interfirm and intergroup level, but not the intragroup or team level. Team interactions are often framed in terms of leadership and followership, a categorization which may, or may not, accurately reflect the dynamics of intragroup interactions. To create a grounded theory of collaboration, the Farmer’s Exercise was given to groups of students, their interactions were recorded and post-exercise interviews of participants and observers were done. From a detailed analysis of the recordings and interviews a grounded theory of collaboration was developed. Two broad categories of collaborative behavior formed the frame of the theory that we call Collaborative Theory (CT). The first category, Individual First, is composed of three causal themes: turn-taking, observing or doing, and status seeking. The second category, Team First, also has three causal themes: influencing others, organizing work, and building group cohesion. This second theme can be identified with managerial and leadership action but we argue that it need not. Although this is a preliminary study subject to further validation and testing, CT already identifies collaborative behaviors that shed new light on intragroup interactions.