Collaboration with Strangers

Collaborating with strangers brings new inventions

If left to their own devices, people will choose to work with those they know and trust.  It’s safe, predictable, and it’s a sure fire way to kill your creative genius.  It’s the reason I as a small consulting firm travel to events, conferences, and meet with people outside my circles.  It’s the reason why this week I picked up the phone and called Sean from Hinge Marketing just to chat.  They’re a marketing and branding firm far from the comfy confines of human resources, recruiting, and leadership spaces where I call home.

Collaboration with Strangers

One might say that collaborating with strangers forces diversity of individuals, backgrounds and ideas.  It offers up a different side of workplace diversity that what the EEOC or your HR department might think.  It’s one that goes beyond age, ethnicity, or sex.  Diversity of life.

Collaboration is not a consensus.  It’s a process where one engages with those individuals outside their zone of comfort to work toward a common goal, whatever it may be.  Working on a collaborative environment is much different that the command and control model of days gone by.  You work with those you know.  Managers promote comfortable, safe, and like-minded individuals to their team because they’re familiar and predictable.  That’s a sure-fire recipe for an innovation disaster.

Collaboration involves trust and an amount of openness for the collaboration to be received and without judgement.

In a collaboration environment, performance is measured and shared with goals across the team, group, project, or organization.  Employees or individuals from all levels meet together to tackle a project or complete a task without judgements or biased.  It’s a time when creativity and innovation magic happens.

Companies like Natura Cosmetics based in Brazil are focusing on collaborative diversity to innovate their business.  Individual executives worked with a coach focusing on a personal journey.  The coach met with executives both individually and together as a team focusing on life as well as work issues.  This collaborative approach worked resulting in a business growth of 21% in 2010.  Not too shabby.

I’m not sure how or where my new found relationship with Sean at Hinge Marketing will take me, but I’m open, willing, and able.  And that’s a start.  Diverse work teams provide more than diversity in thought and in life.  By collaborating with strangers we’re exposed to new cultures, challenges, and lifestyles forcing us to reinvent what we know, understand, and expect every single day. 

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Sean McVey says

    Thanks for the shout out Jessica. You bring up some excellent points that inspire me to continue networking ‘without an agenda.’ I think people (and especially marketers) worry too much about goals and not enough about building real relationships. I’ve personally been guilty of this in the past.

    One phone conversation can really go along way in terms of learning another professional’s perspective and generating new ideas. 🙂

  2. Kellye Wright says

    Absolutely agree Jessica. Just last week I noticed two young like-minded entreprenuers on my timeline who follow me and decided to let them know about each other. It’s definitely about pooling our resources together for business growth like you mentioned, even if they’re strangers. Diversity of thought is key.


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