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Who’s afraid of collaboration?

In the wise words of Arthur Schopenhauer; ‘talent hits the target nobody else can hit, genius hits the target nobody can see’. The reality though, is that most people don’t go around contemplating how to be geniuses; mostly they try to do the best with the talent they already have.

However, when this insight is applied in an organisational context, where a team of people collaborate, then the idea of being able to hit the target ‘others do not see’ is no longer a remote possibility. In fact, this is where the real competitive advantage starts, and in my long held view, this is where a collaborative organisational strategy can generate a competitive advantage for any enterprise. There are many other reasons why collaboration is fast becoming the ‘smart’ business way to get ahead. For many years, in many parts of the world, collaboration has been understood by business leaders to be a distinctive organisational form. I maintain that collaboration has matured into a discipline which, until now, (in Australia more so than in the USA, UK, Canada etc.), has been mostly subsumed by a variety of disciplines within existing structures and hierarchies. The conventional logic behind this is based on the traditional ‘how hard can working together be?’ approach. Given that a lot of employees are expected to work with others, negotiate, partner, etc., it is logical to simply expect people to know how to collaborate. This approach is still valid; but only up to a point.

The sheer volume of collaboration and, much more importantly, the scope of opportunity that collaboration can deliver, calls for a more mature approach; one where collaboration is managed as part of an enterprise’s culture of performance and brand. As every person who has managed collaboration (be it an alliance, network or a partnership) knows, there is always a risk of ‘collaboration fatigue’ which, in fact, is  often a major reason why organisations are not consistent in the way they manage their collaborative practice as part of their brand.

I think that building a collaborative brand does not need to be a change management extravaganza. A first step could be the tried and tested method of focusing on in-house practices, processes and systems. Examining how high or low collaboration is ranked, valued and/or rewarded internally can uncover a wealth of data which in turn can serve as a basis for strategy design. The collaboration brand is not about asking your staff to collaborate in a uniform way. Rather, it is a practice system with a signature CQ (collaborative intelligence) that drives your business.

To reflect on the opening quote by Schopenhauer, any organisation has a unique chance to be a ‘genius’ where an individual cannot. Business leadership that does not think about its ability to hit targets that others do not see, can only rely on the talent strategy for so long. Pretty soon it becomes a costly catch-up game. Organisations who are serious about their competition can choose to be talent or genius angled. Both are matters of chosen strategy. In my view the latter is wiser, but not possible without collaborative strategy as the crucial ingredient.

Business, that is any enterprise, is a form of social organisation. It is important that collaboration be a managed discipline that recognises how resources, knowledge, technology and people interact in specifically strategic ways. Once the internal strategy starts to produce results, organisations can translate collaborative culture into an advantage.

If, as my hero Edwin Land would say, the task ahead is “manifestly important, but nearly impossible”, then that’s a sure sign that it is worth undertaking. This may resonate with enterprises that appreciate the pitfalls that come from a lack of collaboration, as shown in the infographic below by Salesforce (blog by Nick Stein) which examines how a lack of collaboration can cost a business.

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2 replies »

    • Dear Kel,
      Many thanks for taking a moment to post a comment. Interestingly, I received a lot feedback via direct email echoing your comment. I think, this was in particular the case in Brisbane where there is a growing number of people wanting to find ways to collaborate. Encouraging.
      very best

      J

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