Collaboration – a tough ask?

When it comes to the future, we generally can’t help ourselves; we are nothing short of obsessed about it. To most of us, it doesn’t feel like we are, but really, if we take a moment to reflect, we can see that by and large we are fixated on it.

Calculating the future is important to everything we do. The further into the future we look, the more we hope to be correct. Those who get it right end up being better off than the rest. Those who ignore it tend to play a game of catch up – the story of humanity. Naturally, work and business are part of our quest for getting the future right. In terms of business strategy, it is inconceivable not to focus on the future. Major businesses now employ resident futurologists. An interesting side note; the overwhelming majority of futurologists tend to be male, which is intriguing for a host of other reasons.

How does all this relate to business focused collaboration? For a start there are two factors that are of particular interest to me:

  1. collaborative organisation
  2. disruptive workforces.

Collaborative organisation may be slightly tautological. At its simplest echelon an organisation is not possible without some level of collaboration. In reality it is more of a co-operation that organisations engage in as a default way of working, but frankly speaking it is easy to confuse the two. What really makes an organisation collaborative in nature is when collaboration is paid a special focus in terms of strategic investment of resources into it as a way of achieving better results. Some managers are already clear on the fact that collaboration at the very least increases the odds of making a business more competitive. Therefore the investment in training of staff, collaboration tools and so on is seen as right kind of investment.

Disruptive workforces are slightly harder to define. The essence is the collection of factors and trends that are currently underway in Western style economies. The workforce is undergoing major challenges ranging from low engagement levels (low satisfaction with work), an increasing ability to freelance, the rise of the entrepreneurial class, uncertainties in terms of work availability, substitution of one kind of work with new forms due to intensified automation, emergence of new forms of management (ie. holacracy) etc. All these factors amount to a massive challenge to any business in terms of creating and maintaining stability in fast changing markets.

Organisations of any type and/or size need to invest in identifying similar factors which will, in one way or another, shape their ability to design a successful collaboration strategy worth its investment. For instance, building a culture of collaboration with a workforce that is unengaged comes with higher costs and higher risks in terms of ROI than what would otherwise be the case. Knowing that up front can make a vital difference. An attempt to build a more competitive business regardless of its size requires attention to the model of collaboration the business can and should adopt. However in equal measure, businesses should focus on future trends in order to better craft a collaborative organisation. The upshot is that collaboration as a strategic response to a competitive marketplace has to be tied to the way the business thinks about the future. A tough ask but great rewards.

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