Is collaboration the buzzword of the moment or key to your business growth?
With everything from scholarly papers to project management tools including the word, it would seem collaboration deserves our attention.
Collaboration is used to describe things as diverse as Slack and Monday.com, “operating system(s) that allow you to manage projects while collaborating with your team”; strategic alliances such as Gorman’s, “well known for collaborating with visual artists”; company values like Woolworths’ in South Africa: “Our values state that we are customer obsessed, inspirational, responsible, collaborative and committed to quality”; or one of the five corporate culture trends of 2022, according to O.C. Tanner.
What is at the core of this movement towards collaboration?
The innovation historian, Steven Johnson, author of “How We Got to Now” makes a brilliant research case: all innovation is the result of multi-generational, inclusive collaboration. Doing a deep historical analysis of the major world-changing innovations like light, refrigeration, and eyeglass lenses, he demonstrates that all innovation breakthroughs are not heroic, individualistic contemporary endeavours. They are actually grand collaborations, built over years of countless inclusive contributions.
It is not a surprise then that companies looking to have a competitive and innovative edge would seek to add collaboration to their teams’ ways of working and overall culture.
“Collaborative businesses are 70% more likely to innovate than businesses that do not collaborate”. Source: Australian Department of Industry
This is not an easy task though. It involves many layers such as a culture of trust, accountability and open communication.
Collaboration also needs to be deliberate and encouraged within parameters that are aligned with the purpose of the company. Collaboration, though often linked to enhanced creativity and innovation, is most productive when focused and strategically used to achieve certain goals.
Consider how much time is wasted in business because people working together, that is, supposedly “collaborating”, have different agendas. When there is no alignment to a shared purpose or insufficient clarity on the overarching business objectives. Lack of honest conversation, fear of offering alternate points of view and resistance to collaboration works against ideas that can transform an organisation.
Cultures and teams where people are aligned on their purpose, trust each other and communicate openly and candidly move much faster. They ultimately maximise their performance and potential.
When it comes to solving complex problems, groups perform better than even the highest-performing individuals, according to researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “We found that groups of size three, four, and five outperformed the best individuals … [We] attribute this performance to the ability of people who work together to generate and adopt correct responses, reject erroneous responses, and effectively process information,” says Lead Researcher Dr. Patrick Laughlin.
In other words, collaboration (‘co-labour’ or ‘work together’) enables critical thinking and diverse perspectives helping teams produce more agile, innovative responses and solutions as they continue to be faced with constant change.
Collaboration happens in almost every organisation but collaboration without accountability, without deep-rooted trust or a first-team mindset can get messy. Collaboration is generous and helpful. It’s aimed to benefit each other and achieve outcomes, and as such, we need to pay close attention to it and not expect it to happen just because we’ve created open-plan offices or have implemented once-a-month brainstorming sessions.
Work with us to prepare your team to collaborate more effectively. Our Impact Program sets the foundations for high performing teams to work in a way that collaboration, creativity and innovation can thrive.