On any given day, I am to likely hear an argument pointing to the challenges of collaboration. There are many. Some of the challenges are genuine and others tend rather to be excuses. A fairly straightforward analysis of any business that resists collaboration usually uncovers factors that point to a lack of culture of collaboration, borne out of the lack of a strong collaboration strategy. I seldom hear an argument strong enough to convince me that a business that ignores collaboration will be able to compete in the long run. What tends to happen when someone attempts to argue against collaboration is an unwitting revelation of another kind. The argument maker describes a situation where it appears as if the enterprise she or he is involved is essentially rigged for the avoidance of collaboration. Everything in that enterprise is designed so that collaboration cannot even begin, let alone flourish.
Sometimes the rewards and incentives to collaborate are just not there. A business that rewards competition without collaboration, or even good old teamwork, can create large barriers to collaboration that lead to missed business opportunities because co-workers are not willing to share information, insights, ideas and expertise. On the surface, though, not too many businesses would acknowledge this; that is until one speaks to the general staff, rather than the business leaders in the organisation.
To be fair, there are many business leaders who try to exert their influence based on their seniority in the business. At times that can be a lonely road. Presenting a case for better collaboration as a way of maximising results in any business is not often readily embraced by peers or superiors. One clue as to why that may be the case is the dreaded C word: change! Even though business leaders in general like to tout their acumen as change managers, the simple reality is that change management is hard and risky. Thus the inclination to consider options that do not include change, which is something that collaboration certainly generates.
The strategy of collaboration is to a significant degree dependent on a change manager and how they can execute the hard job of making people embrace something new, something different and often uncertain. But, before that is possible, an organisation that is focused on competition is always open to considering and embracing emerging drivers and practices. Collaboration is now established as both a business driver and a practice. It has been evolving seriously for over two decades. Today any business growth strategy that does not look into the culture of an organisation with a view of ensuring that it can include collaboration is short-lived. And yes, it is possible to compete without a specific collaboration strategy, but not in the long run and not without added cost to the business.
This is not a call to wholesale change, leading to every aspect of a business being mandatorily collaborative. It is a call to strategic and selective unlocking of the potential of a business to create new value through collaboration. Research (Deloitte Access Economics and Deloitte Digital) suggests that only 1 in 5 businesses without collaboration strategies outgrow the market. When compared to the fact that 52% of businesses with an important collaboration strategy can outperform the competition, then the case for collaboration is also a case for responsible business management. Using emerging evidence is the first step towards dismantling an outdated business culture that stands in the way of collaboration. Sounds like another disruption is needed.