“Collaboration” is a bit of a buzzword these days. We hear it all the time coming out of a variety of industries and entrepreneurial magazines, but what does it really mean, why do we need it, and are we harnessing its power effectively in our teams and businesses?
Collaboration ultimately means two or more people working together to achieve a common goal. It would be easy to imagine that this would just be a natural part of the workplace environment but in reality, just because projects and tasks have teams assigned to completing them, does not mean these are necessarily collaborative projects. ‘Working together’ can be defined in vastly different ways.
Bud Caddell, the founder of management consultancy NOBL, suggests that many companies are still using, ‘command-and-control, top-down methods when culture (and their customers’ needs) are moving faster than ever.’ He explains that in an attempt to keep up with the pace, leaders are, ‘overworking their people and burning them out.’ In this model, a task is delegated, the roles are given, people put their heads down, stay quiet, and get their jobs done. Sounds productive…
The problem is, as we move more and more from an industrial work model to a knowledge-based model, it’s vitally important to understand the demand for innovation and project fluidity to continue to succeed and grow. A top-down model leaves very little room for feedback, brainstorming, fluid change and innovation, and this can create employee dissatisfaction, slow fixes to problems that arise, or the loss of jobs to a competitor who is one step ahead of the game. People are working hard, but are they working effectively?
Linda Hill, author of Collective Genius, in her extensive research of leading businesses around the world, found that innovation was at its highest when staff were encouraged to give input, share ideas and engage in constructive conflict. She stresses the need to move away from the old style of the one-man show and move toward highly collaborative team environments to increase productivity, creativity and profit margins.
So what does this look like? We’ve highlighted three ways to start harnessing the power of collaboration in your business:
1. Hire Different
In the hiring process, creating space for collaboration means being intentional in hiring people who think differently to you or have complementary strengths, as opposed to hiring people with the same strengths. If everyone thinks like the leader, there will be a very one-dimensional vantage point from which to view the possibilities and problems. Guy Kawasaki, the author of Top Ten Mistakes that Entrepreneurs Make, calls this ‘hiring in your own image.’
The goal is not to avoid conflict by having everyone think the same way, but actually to embrace it to bring a diversity of options, and the best possible outcome to a problem that has been viewed from every angle.
2. Feedback, feedback, feedback
Give time in your meetings for feedback. It is so important to allow for an ‘offence-free zone’ in which people can feel comfortable to give their honest feedback without being ostracized or punished. This kind of environment requires trust and will always have to be modelled by the boss. If people don’t feel safe to share for fear of punishment, or being shut down, it’s not worth asking for feedback at all.
3. Smart Systems
Collaboration does not have to mean more meetings. A key to strong collaboration is having good systems. There are so many great softwares available to help teams collaborate online, ask questions, see updates and add ideas. This lowers emails, keeps all communication in one, searchable place, allows file sharing and private group options.
You can find the top 14 collaboration software according to Workable HERE.
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