Collaboration seems fine in theory. It's comparatively easy to agree about "what we all want to do".
The practicalities of collaboration ("how we're going to do it") are more problematic, especially if the people involved have different ideas of "how things are usually done". Our own cultural norms seem perfectly normal to us, so normal that we don't even notice or question them. When we collaborate across cultures we find other people start doing things differently, and it can seem they are "being difficult".
One of the cultural clashes that intrigues me is where one cultural norm is to work in planned, hierarchical ways and another cultural norm is to work in an emergent way in a horizontal organisational structure.
Naturally the hierachical organisation is accustomed to target-setting and plans. So the heirarchy people are thinking "What exactly is everyone going to do? Let's settle down and get it all agreed properly so we can get started." But the emergent people are thinking "Why all the holdups? We need to get started. It's much too early to firm up things that we haven't explored yet."
Nobody says this in so many words. They may not even realaise what"s happening. There's just a feeling of frustration because it seems to nearly everyone that "some people" are being difficult and stopping "the rest of us" from getting started as well as we usually do. Of course exactly who the "difficult people" are depends on individual preferences for the best way to get started.
In fact it's a simple cuture clash between "How can we start until we know what we're doing?" and "How can we know what we're doing until we've started?"
It's not easy to mix styles and cultures, but the more we recgonise the differences the easier it becomes. There's a place for planned, orchestrated approaches and a place for more emergent, improvised apporaches - and sometimes there is a place for the two to come together.
I love this example of collaboration between classical music and jazz (which I first quoted in a blog three years ago - Collaboration challenges - and lessons from Yehudi Menuhin and Stephane Grappelli)
- Classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin - here he plays Beethoven violin concerto http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-iuSgXKUcw&feature=related
- Jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli - here he's live in San Francisco. 1982. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyFwu7VPbzQ&NR=1
- This is the time where they first come together - a collaboration that developed and continued - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xV0IcFyXUWs&feature=related
It's inspiration for the rest of us when we need to collaborate outside our cultural norms.