Can you learn new Collaboration Skills or is it all dictated by your personality?

Article by Ken Thompson, last updated April 2022

Some people would say that your Collaboration Quotient (CQ) is like your IQ - it is something you are born with and you must just accept it. I disagree.

I believe 95% of people, excluding the 1 in 25 who are sociopaths according to Harvard psychologist Dr. Martha Stout, author of The Sociopath Next Door, can easily improve their collaboration skills through practice, team activities/games, experiential learning, social learning and coaching.

However, learning new collaboration skills is only half of the story – it is equally important that we “unlearn” some widely-held myths about collaboration which stop us being effective - such as these 3 beauties:

  1. In good teams every member is part of every decision
  2. Competition between team members is usually a bad thing (and can and should be eliminated)
  3. Top teams have one leader

I explore these 3 myths and many others in my new book - A Systematic Guide to Collaboration and Competition within in Organizations


To support this critical area of leadership skill building I have developed 3 unique Collaboration Simulation Games to let individuals and teams quickly develop new collaboration skills in a safe and fun environment:

PLAYOFF allows teams to explore the important skill of achieving goals via Collaborative Competition as they play a very engaging team game based on the rules of soccer game exploiting the principles of Game Theory.

COMPETE allows teams to learn about Commercial/Business Acumen as they compete as businesses in real time against up to 6 other teams. COMPETE allows individuals to learn the important principle that for you to succeed it is not always necessary for others to fail. It all depends on how well you design your goals!

CONSORTIUM allows teams to explore the flip side of Collaborative Competition - Competitive Collaboration. Teams of players represent 6 coffee roaster businesses who need to work together to try to win a huge contract as a collaborative. CONSORTIUM addresses the ubiquitous business problem of sub-optimization where individuals and teams fixate on their local goals at the expense of the organisational goals. Systems Theory teaches us “to optimise the whole you must sub-optimise the parts”, however in many organisations it is normally the other way around – the parts are optimized at the expense of the whole!


Download our new Collaboration/Compete Infographic

Watch my short video summary of A Systematic Guide to Collaboration and Competition within in Organizations

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More about Ken Thompson

Ken Thompson

Ken is a practitioner, author and speaker on Leadership, Collaborative Working, High Performing Teams, Change Management, Project Management and Business Acumen. His work has featured in major publications including The Guardian , Wired Magazine, The Huffington Post and The Henry Ford Magazine. Ken has also spoken at many international events including TEDx, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), Learn Tech (London) and NASA.

Ken is Founder of Business Simulations Ltd.

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Systematic Guide to Collaboration and Competition within Organizations


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