For learners: collaboration is the key to your success

On the importance of practicing teamwork

Plenty of courses teach you facts. And facts are important; content knowledge grounds you in a subject and allows you to build on what you know. But at work, content expertise is only part of what you need to succeed. To succeed you need to collaborate with others. And collaboration is not about knowing facts; it is a way of thinking, a skill critical to your success.

The ability to collaborate successfully is a skill – one that can be practiced and learned.

Why should you learn to collaborate?

Because the group provides a context to learning. When you’re working alone, you only have one frame of reference – your own. Working in a team provides you with diverse ideas and the more you encounter and engage with diverse ideas, the better your ideas and decisions will be. You can learn from and with others. Your ideas will cross-pollinate; when you subject your ideas to the diverse knowledge base of your team you expose them to critical examination, and they will flourish as a result.

Because you can only focus on a few things at a time. Known as cognitive load theory, your working memory resources are limited. On a complex project or mission, you need others to help you, to carry information, and to think creatively with you. Working in a group allows you to specialize and to focus on one aspect of a project, ensuring that the entire project will be more successful as a result. Your success depends on others.

Because successful products and ideas need the synergy of many. To create something new, you need to be part of a community. Creativity researchers have shown us that creative solutions that are implemented and widely accepted, do not emerge from a lone inventor; creativity requires community. To create something new and useful, you need to collaborate with others and gain support and acceptance. Collaboration is critical to the success of any ambitious idea.

Because practice working in teams can help you in the future. Most work is done in teams and employers rate collaboration as a key attribute. Practicing how to work with groups, including sharing work and resolving conflict, will make you a better teammate. And your practice will pay off; your ability to collaborate successfully will help you be a better leader, one who is attuned to the challenges and the rewards of teamwork.

If you’re interested in hearing more about opportunities to practice your collaboration skills by working with a team and running a startup, or helping a venture compete like a startup, check out our Alternate Reality Courses: the Entrepreneurship Strategy Course and the Leadership and Corporate Venturing Course.


You’ll get to experience events and practice in a place where failure isn't critical – so that mistakes in the course turn into real-life successes.

In Alternate Reality Courses, you can live through an experience, such as running a startup company, and make decisions just as you would in real life. You'll be immersed in scenarios, interact with various characters, receive feedback about your choices along the way; your story will change depending on the choices you make. The course will react to your choices, and you can practice and build skills that will transfer from the course to the real world.

Works Cited

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. HarperPerennial, New York, 39.

Deming, D. J. (2017). The growing importance of social skills in the labor market. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 132(4), 1593-1640.

Hackman, J. R., & Hackman, R. J. (2002). Leading teams: Setting the stage for great performances. Harvard Business Press.