Why Capability is not Enough – The Four Drives that are Key to Collaboration

Team overcoming challenges

Collaboration is the buzz word in most organisations these days, but it is far from straightforward to achieve. While many organisations develop collaborative capabilities of individual employees, the individual drives to collaborate have an equal role to play. It’s much harder to figure out what really engages us to network, share and collaborate with one another. Having a team who are capable of collaboration, doesn’t necessarily mean that they will.

Through research, we’ve identified four key drives of collaboration; they are universal emotional needs. They underlie everything we do, whether you are the CEO or a junior employee, everyone has them.

Details of the four drives:

Drive to acquire: This is to gain something tangible such as resources and also intangible such as hierarchy and status. The drive to acquire is always relative – we constantly compare what we have, to what others possess and we always want more. A sole focus on this, however, can lead to all-out competition as each person seeks to boost their share of resources.


Drive to defend: This is anytime an employee calls something theirs, for example, to protect against threats or to defend justice and values. The drive to defend tells us a great deal about people’s resistance to change as some individuals can be overwhelmed by the prospect of a merger or acquisition, even if the deal is the only hope for the organisation’s survival. The negative aspect of being solely driven to defend can mean people, teams and organisations become defensive to the point of paranoia, they could build fortresses so strong they have trouble learning and relating to customers and investors and even colleagues.


Drive to bond: This is to be social and part of a community, for example, to form connections and relationships with individuals or groups within the organisation. The drive to bond is boosted when people feel proud of the organisation or team they work for but will result in a loss of morale if they feel the organisation betrays them. However, over-playing the bonding drive can lead to group think and collusiveness which could impact on collaborating between teams.


Drive to learn: This is to seek progress, make sense and contribute in the organisation, for example, to master new things. The drive to learn occurs when employees are motivated by jobs that challenge them and enable them to grow and learn. In the extreme case people can become so obsessed with their own learning and development they forget to share their knowledge and their work productivity may decrease because of this.


Unlike a traditional approach to competencies or skills, there can be too much of a good thing when it comes to the drivers behind collaboration. Research shows that collaboration can be seriously compromised if one particular drive is allowed to become too dominant. Similarly, having a poor showing in one drive substantially diminishes the impact of high scores on the other drives.  To work collaboratively, employees need to find a balance, to be flexible and adaptable in how they respond to the requirement to collaborate, so they do not get stuck demonstrating behaviour at the extremes of each driver.

If collaboration is a key strategic imperative for your business, measuring and developing capability is not enough. Understanding the drivers and recognising when they’re causing interference is equally important.

Do you recognise these drives in your people? How are they affecting collaboration in your organisation?