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Coiiuborative Writing Most successful businesses rely on teamwork to bring their projects and initiatives to fruition. Teamwork, though, is possible only when a spirit of co-operation exists in the bt i " are willing to share responsibilities and decision-making. tly on the basis of their ability to work as a team. This olication to collaborative writing projects, whose size vi i wwssuasw auay wenandd that two or more writers work together to produce a single document. A project may involve multiple areas of expertise that no single person is able to supply on their own. Responsibility for these projects doesn't rest on a solitary writer but on the ability of a group to communicate, build loyalty, reach consensus, and both accept and give criticism objectively. In North America, close to 9o per cent of busi- ness professionals engage in collaborative writing.>® A lack of competency in this area can therefore be costly. In fact, 83 per cent of knowledge workers report losing or wasting time on document collaboration issues.*' Political, social, and logistical challenges can interfere with the process of collabo- rative writing. First, collaboratively written documents generally take longer to write, revise, and edit than individual documents, partly because they require a high level of coordination. Second, participants may have different writing styles, leading to inconsis- tencies and the need for harmonization in the final edit, which can be time consuming— especially if participants are not clear on what is expected from them and have not agreed upon procedures for resolving disputes.** Finally, a lack of sensitivity and/or diplomacy, poor personal communication, and personal conflicts arising from differences in power and status can interfere with participants' receptivity to each other's ideas. This can lead to control issues and an unequal ability to add, edit, and remove text. Understanding the pitfalls and challenges of collaborative writing before you start can help you avoid them and make the process a rewarding one, where mutual support and respect, motivation, clear goals, and timely and valuable feedback allow participants to learn from each other and produce a well-received, high-quality document.** Engage- ment, involvement, and the feeling that each writer can contribute and make a difference are key to a successful collaboration. That said, not all collaborative writing occurs in the same way. Consultation between team members may or may not take place during planning, draft preparation, revision, or final editing. In fact, researchers on collaborative writing in the workplace note various strategies for approaching the task (Figure 3.8). Communicating for Results Pc(rulhl simultaneous wrltl;g cut- :'n:.-pns!o or puzzle): and harmonize the writing styles to create the completed document# FIGURE 3.8 Collaborative Writing Strategies Here are some key points to keep in mind when working and writing collaboratively: collaborative writing The process of writers working together to create finished reports, proposals, and other important documents. Practise active listening. Take other viewpoints seriously and consider them impartially and open-mindedly. Be attentive to nuance and make sure you under- stand what you've heard before responding. Designate a team coordinator. This person may not have authority over the entire project but can coordinate planning and activities. They will keep track of progress on the document and consolidates draft segments into a master copy. Do up-front planning. Meet to discuss the document before anyone begins to write. Brainstorm ideas for the project, conceptualize the document, evaluate its content, and create an outline, documenting the planning process as you go. Create a schedule that accommodates all group members' work commitments and that notes due dates for drafts, revisions, and final versions. Agree on writing style standards. Establish the style points and formats writ- ers are expected to follow. This step will help to diminish differences in individual writing styles. Make the most of technology. An initial face-to-face meeting can help group members get to know each other and build group loyalty. After that, e-mail, file-sharing sites, virtual meeting software, and collaborative writing tools can help members work together over distances. Determine who is responsible for each segment of the document. Equalize workloads as much as possible. Allow group members to work according to their strengths or where they will learn the most. Each member is responsible for re- searching and writing a segment but should not hesitate to ask for help. Foster a spirit of co-operation. Everyone should feel that they are making a contribution and can be heard. To do this, you may have to compromise. Even when you check your ego at the door, expect a certain level of disharmony. However, creative differences can be a good thing; under the right conditions, divergent viewpoints gradually meld into productive consensus. Harmonize writing styles. Exchange and review writing segments while remaining diplomatic in your criticism. Let the group's best writer or editor to
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