21st-Century Skills for Youth: Collaboration

In one of our previous blog posts, we discussed some of the many skills that young people growing up in the 21st-century need. Among those skills was collaboration. In today’s blog, we’re going to take a more in-depth look at why collaborating is an essential 21st-century skill that the youth can use to their eternal advantage.

What is Collaboration as a Skill?

The term ‘collaboration’ is certainly a lot less nebulous and abstract than things like “critical thinking.” It’s a word that we use in our everyday lives and have done for some time. It just means working together, doesn’t it? Yes, it does.

How is collaboration a “21st-century skill” if it’s something that has been around for countless years? The main thing to remember here is that while collaboration itself is not a new idea, its value to the modern enterprise has never been greater.

Collaboration in the modern context refers to young people’s ability to get along with and work together with other people, perhaps even people they don’t know well, toward completing a set project. Businesses have discovered and are now actively exploiting the fact that a team working as one is far greater in value than the sum of its individual members. There is exponential value that comes from proper, meaningful, and productive collaboration.

Why Do Young Learners Need Collaboration?

It’s not just about putting people together in a room or around a table with a blank piece of paper or a whiteboard. There are many higher-level education skills at work when collaboration is going on:

  • Communication skills – Team members must be able to listen to others’ input, offer a polite critique followed by constructive ideas and solutions to problems. On top of that, they have to do it clearly and articulately.
  • Time management – Members of the team need to show up to meetings and group work sessions on time, at least as a sign of respect to fellow students or colleagues, but also so that work can start and be completed on-time.
  • Empathy – As each person shares their viewpoint and perspective, others must be able to put themselves into that position so that they can both understand and appreciate what the other party is saying.
  • Critical thinking and creativity – Collaboration is most effective as a process when it is applied to solving problems or coming with new innovations. For this to work, there needs to be a strong degree of critical thinking and creative thought in the group. The strength of these abilities grows exponentially when you combine that of each team member into one purpose.
  • Leadership – Finally, all members of a team-based project learn the value of leadership. They may exercise it themselves throughout the collaboration, or sometimes just at select moments. Whether they see it in others or apply it themselves, there is growth in leadership through collaboration.

The fact is that some of the world’s most influential companies and organizations, including Google, NASA, leading universities, automakers like Tesla and many others have all listed collaboration as a key requirement for choosing new talent to join their teams.

No matter how empowered the individual feels, there is always a limit to how much they can accomplish alone. It is usually better for each individual, as well as the company or organization and the wider community when people learn to work together, combine their skills and knowledge by collaborating.

How is Collaboration Applied? How Does it Work in Reality?

It all sounds very noble and progressive, but does collaboration in the 21st-century sense have the same practical applications that people knew previously? The answer, again, is yes. 

Imagine a group of students who come together to solve a problem in their community, such as a campus littering problem. A single student acting alone could take action, reporting culprits to the relevant school authority, issuing notices on social media, putting up posters, etc. It’s good that any one individual would feel the ability to act when they see something is wrong.

If that same student finds other who shares his passion for this issue, however, there efforts can become much more powerful and effective. One of the best things to come out of collaboration is the amazing effect of piecing together bits of a great idea to formulate a complete strategy.

Individuals within the project can each contribute a part of a plan. Very often what happens is that someone has a notion in their mind, to which another team member adds some form, which then prompts another team member to add more of the form — it’s a snowball effect. This is the exponentially growing value that enterprises in the 21st century value. That snowball quickly grows into a huge and profitable business center.

Collaboration on a Personal Level

Even outside of the careers world, young people benefit from collaboration in their personal growth and development. As we mentioned above, collaboration teaches young people empathy and understanding, as well as that critical ability to listen to others. This has tremendous application to their social lives, making them more successful in winning friends and influencing others in life.

Furthermore, collaboration also instils an understanding and appreciation for practical rules and boundaries, as well as the idea of setting realistic life goals. This assists young people in strengthening themselves mentally; helps them to become more grounded and down-to-earth. They are also more resilient and able to deal with the limitations of life without becoming depressed or disillusioned. Collaborators are powerful and they know that by getting together with others they can overcome anything.

Collaboration is Experiential

If you want your kids to learn about collaboration, they have to learn by doing. That’s why they’ll find great value in some of our own experiential programs that teach collaboration, as well as other 21st century skills like critical thinking and leadership. Learn more about these on from our homepage.

Show your son or daughter the amazing value of combining their natural sense of creativity and wonder with that of their peers and others. You and they will not be disappointed that you have taken the time to learn and master this crucial 21st-century skill.