It seems like every organization we work with is touting their commitment to a more collaborative workplace. The problem is that we can’t find a consistent definition of collaboration among the leaders who say they want more of it. Collaboration sounds great, but what is it and how do you make it happen?
Collaboration is about working with others to do, create or accomplish something.
Being collaborative has an underlying assumption that the sum of the individuals is greater than the individuals on their own. Creative thinking, innovation and ideas are just a few of the essential elements that are implied in collaboration.
First of all, collaboration is not guaranteed by having open work environments. Collaboration is about working together and sharing ideas. Collaboration happens when there is space in your calendar and your mind not just space around you. When you don’t have time to think or your brain is crowded with facts and figures, collaboration won’t happen.
Secondly, since collaboration is about sharing, it’s critical that the culture supports and rewards teams’ not just individuals. We recently heard about a sales compensation system where everyone in an office received a percentage of the commissions earned by the entire team. That meant that more senior sales reps benefitted from spending time with new sales reps because they knew that they would get a portion of that person’s commissions. They’ve since moved to an individual reward system. We believe that this will erode the collaboration over time since the reward system no longer values the team contribution.
You collaborate every time you work with someone else to get something done. The question you need to answer is, “how well do you collaborate?”
- Know Your Technology – are you a master of your tools? Just having Lync or Yammer does not guarantee collaboration. In fact, if it’s used poorly this can become a distraction. How many times have you been on a call that wasted ten minutes trying to make a web sharing tool work and there was no document being shared? Use the right tool for the right task.
- Create Collaboration Processes – sharing information is part of collaboration. How you do that matters. Will the information be open and available to everyone or a limited group of people? How do things get circulated? The more intentional you are about how you collaborate, the more effective your collaboration will be.
- Get Random – creativity is stimulated by accidental meetings, weird ideas and other inputs that are not in the normal stream. Make time to add something different to your life. It can be a new idea source or even a meeting with someone outside your typical meeting schedule.
We passionately believe that collaboration is critical in today’s working environment. You cannot grow to new levels of success without collaboration. So make time for collaboration, use technology wisely, be intentional about how you collaborate and get random.