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Designing Collaborative Project Workflow With Radical Collaboration Tenets

The tenets of radical collaboration support notjust large-scale collaborative efforts but also smaller teams and partnerships in designing project workflows. As April Greenwood, Benjamin Lauren, Jessica Knott, and Danielle Nicole DeVoss (2019) found in their collaborative study, “Effective facilitation that incorporates building empathy between team members is one way that design thinking can help groups of diverse people be creative and innovate together” (p. 414). Using the guiding questions below, team members may identify their shared values, understand the feasibility of their collaboration, and co-create guiding principles that serve the needs of the collaboration.

Pre-Audit Reflection

Before attempting the radical collaboration audit, have an open discussion with your collaborators) about your expectations using the following prompts:

  • • What is the purpose of this collaboration?
  • • What is the scope of work and associated time frame for this collaboration?
  • • How should personal interests and goals for this collaboration be accounted?
  • • What are the expected outcomes of this collaboration?

Radical Collaboration Audit

Upon reflecting on the logistical aspects of your collaboration, use the following list of questions to audit your partnership or team’s readiness to engage radical collaboration. These questions are meant to prompt discussions rather than solutions.

Post-Audit Discussion

After completing the auditing worksheet, collaborators may design an agreeable workflow for radical collaboration. Use the following prompts as guidelines:

TABLE 5.5 Radical collaboration auditing worksheet




1. Is exposure to a greater level of complexity (for problem definition, skill development, etc.) necessary for this collaboration?


2. How might collaborators communicate their comfort level with exposure to new complexity or unknown?


3. How should the team be maintained?


4. What roles are necessary for team maintenance? (i.e., scheduler, documentarian, or other shared roles.)


5. How might new members participate in the ongoing collaboration?


6. How might new perspectives be invited?


7. How should collaborators practice active listening?


8. How are ideas assessed and critiqued?


9. How can different roles (see Question 4) be rotated or shared?


10. How is ownership of the collaborative project defined?

Radical Imagination

11. How should ideas take form?

Radical Imagination

12. How might failures be embraced?

  • • Plans —> prototype(s): Who will decide when plans are ready to be prototyped? What resources would be necessary for building these prototypes? Who will procure these resources?
  • • Prototype(s) —» testing: Where will prototypes be stored and who has access to them? How will testing be conducted? How much testing would be needed?
  • • Testing —> implementation: How will the results of testing be interpreted? How will the test results be used in iterating the prototype? Who shall decide when the revised prototype is ready for implementation? Who will bear the cost for implementation? How will successes and failures be embraced?

Summary and Takeaways

Collaboration is innate to technical communication. Contemporary problems call for innovation in collaborative practices. This chapter recommended a “radical collaboration” approach afforded by design thinking as a way to decentralize power relations in interdisciplinary collaboration. Using collaborative autoethnography methods, I presented a self-study of an academic research collaborator)' and revealed how tenets of radical collaboration can be actualized. The chapter concluded with a three-tier framework for supporting a culture of radical collaboration in the academy that can also be adopted by industry programs. Key

takeaways from this chapter are:

  • • Collaboration needs to be continually examined in technical communication.
  • • Design thinking can enrich collaboration by fostering a “radical” approach to team organizing.
  • • Collaborative autoethnography can be an effective method for team’s self-examination.
  • • Radical collaboration can be manifested across disciplines, institutions, and programs through the tenets of exposure, collaboration, invitation, suspension, sharing, and radical imagination.

Learning Activity: Considering Dilemmas in Radical Collaboration

The tenets of radical collaboration emphasize openness and shared ownership

of ideas and resources. Now, what happens when there are conflicts of interest

between collaborators? Consider the following situation:

Mandy, a graduate student who has just completed her coursework is heading into her “dissertation phase” and is writing a National Science Foundation grant application to support her summer research. Given the focus of her dissertation topic, which is an investigation of wearable technologies in the workplace, Mandy is excited to share her grant application with the members of her research collaboratory so they may provide feedback.

During the research collaboratory’s meeting, Mandy is surprised to learn that two other grad students in the collaboratory, Jasper and Sheila, are working on applying for the same grant. Knowing that the grant sponsor does not usually fund multiple projects from the same institution, Jasper and Sheila ask Mandy if she would like to join their grant proposal as a third author. Mandy is torn between her preference to receive the grant on her own (which would mean larger funds) and her fear of losing the grant to Jasper and Sheila if she went on to submit the application separately.

Discussion questions:

  • • What would you do if you were Mandy? Why?
  • • What are some helpful resources or strategies to resolve a situation like this?
  • • Was competition inevitable? Is this competition healthy for the collaboratory? Why?
  • • What contextual factors would you consider from this scenario? How do the tenets of radical collaboration support (or not) the decision-making process?


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