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Power Hour: John-Paul Flintoff on collaborative working

Smart working comes in all shapes and sizes – it’s about the tools you use, how you choose to work, and also who you choose to work with. To help us expand on this last point, we enlisted the expertise of John-Paul Flintoff – author, TED speaker and member of the faculty of The School of Life – for the first O2 Power Hour of 2015. Read his advice below for tips on how collaborative working can benefit your business.

Working alone, it’s hard to achieve your greatest impact. But when you collaborate, all kinds of great things become possible.

  • Working alongside others in a similar field, you can build entirely new markets.
  • With neighbouring businesses, you can drive up local trade and help your community to flourish.
  • With people you normally see as competitors, you can tackle something about your industry that troubles you all.

With customers as collaborators, you can find ways to improve the products or services you offer, and even crowd-fund new ones.

Below are some useful pointers to think about before as you embark on you collaborative journeys.

  1. Think about what you want to achieve.

Be really clear about this before approaching anybody. Make your plan very specific. It may change over time, but if you aren’t clear about it to start with, nobody will know what you want from them.

  1. Who do you collaborate with?

Some collaborators will be known to you already – others won’t. With strangers, build some kind of relationship before asking for help. If you don’t know how to meet them, use Twitter or LinkedIn to tell them, honestly, about why you like what they do. When you’ve developed a relationship, you can say that you have an idea to share – but give them full permission to say, ‘No, thanks.’

  1. List your assumptions about the partnership, and what you promise to bring to it.

If you aren’t honest and open about your agenda at the start of any collaboration, you will find it hard to be open and honest later. It can be painful all round if you allow false expectations to arise and then disappoint your partner further down the line.

  1. Give everybody permission to ask ‘stupid’ questions, and to give feedback.

When people bring you problems and objections, it’s all too easy to feel resentful. But the best collaborators don’t resent – they offer thanks, and look for what’s useful in the points raised. Somebody might have saved you from bigger problems later, so positively encourage feedback at any time.

  1. If something’s nagging at you – name it!

If you feel like you’ve lost momentum – or you worry about any other aspect of the relationship – there’s a strong chance that others feel the same. Say what you feel honestly, but without reproach, so that you can start to work out together what went wrong, and find a new way forward.

  1. When you reach the end, celebrate.

It’s imperative to set an end point in advance, or else you’ll all feel awkward about it. It can be a date or a milestone related to your product or service. If you want to extend your work, do – but a clean end is often better. Either way, mark the end of the work with a proper celebration of all you’ve achieved.


If you put these simple tips into effect, and keep your working relationships in good health, you can collaborate more quickly and efficiently than ever these days, thanks to the tech solutions currently available. Among other things, Microsoft Office 365 and Box allow us to collaborate on content, and easily share it. Microsoft Lync provides a consistent presence for instant messaging, voice and video. And O2 Just Call Me, which has just launched, will enable us to hold hassle-free conference calls.

As a tech enthusiast, I welcome anything that makes collaboration easier. It’s only through collaboration that I can hope to achieve the really great things I have in mind. But what about you? What do you want to pull off that you can’t do alone? Have you tried a similar approach to collaboration? What has your experience been?
We hope John-Paul’s wise words help you to collaborate better and make work more fun and effective.


Remember to sign up for next Power Hour in May by clicking the link below, which will be all about connectedness and how to overcome conflicts with people you communicate with.

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