My conviction is shared with many colleagues globally who understand that the collaboration culture will be one, if not the defining, feature of work and sustainability by the end of this decade. Many will make a last ditch effort to join in, hoping that quick fix strategies will transform their organisations into palaces rich with a collaborative culture, forgetting that decades of management research tells us that building a specific brand of culture in any setting takes patience and effort.
Those who recognise, and more importantly care about, their own place in years to come will also start to develop an intense sense of purpose, backed by the discipline that goes with it. As I have consistently emphasised, collaboration is where competition starts in the new order of things. Customers and consumers will recognise that the values that underpin collaboration are values that resonate with their own personal desires and attitudes. The familiarity of the values will then easily be translated into commercial transactions and reward for businesses whose operating systems are structured in such a way as to take the advantage. In order to be in that rewarding position, any enterprise that is serious (that is, earnest in thought and action) will recognise that collaboration with others is only possible if collaboration is the philosophical core of its own enterprise.
Achieving this means one thing: developing staff into ‘collaboration’ people. Just as we understand that bringing up our children to care for those less fortunate by applying the age old wisdom of “charity begins at home“, so should we be doing in the workplace. Collaboration culture building in any social form, including commercial enterprises, has to start with the simple acknowledgement of what I have previously described as the “collaboration instinct“. The idea behind collaboration is not revolutionary per se. The discovery of the fact (despite the decades, if not centuries, of promulgation of an idea) that we are paragons of rational thought and as such are motivated by self-interest in all our transactions, we now know that there are deeper forces at play. Forces we share with other species, no matter how much less intelligent. Forces that drive us to connect, cooperate and seek equilibrium. These are the basis for an instinct that drives our needs and hopes, and that burgeons in full force when we collaborate. It is not a sheer accident nor chance that we now see an increasing number of business analysts, educators, researchers and leaders who promote the importance of faculties and features that until recently were deemed to be signs of ‘softness’. Care, compassion, friendship etc are now the key forces behind successful employee engagement and productivity. It is the way we understand and integrate those forces into the culture of collaboration that will create the unique brand of a specific enterprise.
Organisational culture has had its own good and bad days, but it never became insignificant. The future of competitive enterprise is now more dependent on the ability of business leaders to “read” the everyday world better and not see it plainly through the context of business transactions. Our employees are our critics, customers, promoters, partners and sources of knowledge. Employees today expect that services they are involved in reflect their own experience as customers as well. The tastes of consumers now find their way into the attitudes of our workers who appreciate collaboration as being the guiding value in workplace. All this adds up to one simple piece of advice: developing a collaboration brand starts when an organisation nurtures the collaborative instinct of its workers, who in turn then acquire the confidence to deal with external partners, on whose collaboration it depends.
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