"If you don’t think you need to collaborate, you don’t have enough ambition," he said. And he’s right. It’s a sign of the times that collaborative organisations are on the rise, while hierarchical companies are faltering. Most business projects today, can only be achieved successfully through collaboration. This is because if you work together, you maximise the benefit of the diverse knowledge, skills and expertise of all those involved. Shared goals also increase motivation levels. These days, people want to co-create on projects in a networked way, to make a difference in the world –they strive to collaborate on something they care about.
This shift from hierarchical to collaborative networking is not a choice. It is a change that is fundamental to the way the world is going to be.
Changing world of work
Nick spoke about change as being "relentless". It is happening. It is inevitable. Unfortunately, a lot of organisations were designed to keep things the same –even to manage away from change. But that’s not working any more, because change is too fast and too big. So how can organisations deal with this?
Advances in technology and the internet, such as social media, has accelerated us moving towards a networking way of thinking, allowing us to connect and share information. Organisations are having to become more personal, building uppeer-to peer networking and bigger digital communities. The fact is, networks work, increasing the flow of ideas and insights and decreasing the costs of transactions.
The world of work is also becoming more flexible, so it is more crucial for employees to be good communicators with a healthy sense of emotional intelligence. With these skills, collaboration can go beyond employees working together to deliver on objectives. Strangers in different countries can connect to discuss how they can help one another,and even competing organisations will eventually start to work collaboratively for mutual benefit.
Innovation and adaptability are also key to a company’s success, but these are born through collaboration. An example of a company who has achieved success through excelling in these areas is NikePlus, which connects people who want to exercise together– it contributed to the 30% increase in Nike's athletic shoe sales last year.
Top tips for effective collaboration
So how do you lead teams in this new networked way? ‘We need to shift our collaboration IQ,’ said Nick. And the benefits to be gained from it should be worth the effort.
Here are our top tips on what your organisation can do to collaborate more effectively:
• Remove any barriers that might make it difficult for individuals to collaborate. As kids, we collaborate more than we want to compete; we’re naturally inclined to contribute, but it gets trained out of us. Encourage your employees to develop an abundance mindset; a belief that working together can create a bigger pie for everyone.
• Retell the story in order to get people to change. Share a compelling vision and keep giving them a part to play in the story, so they know why it is vital they get results.
• Share the risks, share the rewards. Shared goals act as a strong driver of collaboration, since the way that goals are structured determines how people interact.
• Win for me, win for you, win for the world. Participants must recognise that they can only achieve their goals if other people achieve theirs.
• Give before you get. Help other people long before you call on them for assistance in return. Start the conversations, build relationships and then you can begin transacting.
• Know who, not know how. Help people to get to know each others’ expertise, experience, strengths, priorities, ambitions or challenges.
• Pull down the walls and the ceilings. Let people use social media positively and embrace it.
• It’s a conversation not dictation. Directive leadership can stifle collaboration. Employ leaders who provide strong direction yet aren’t dominating. They set the direction, then empower people to get on with it.
At Lane4, we believe collaboration has to live and breathe in an organisation. Encourage your workforce to open up and share what’s going on. In this increasingly flexible, innovative and digital world, there’s no excuse not to. Finally, remember the words of Charles Darwin: ‘Those who have learnt to collaborate have prevailed.’
1. Johnson, D. W. & Johnson, R. (2005). New developments in social interdependence theory. Psychology Monographs, 131, 285-358.