When Collaboration Adds To Productivity

“Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything. A country’s ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per worker.” – Paul Krugman.

There are a number of reasons why an enterprise may choose to pay attention to collaboration in a strategic way. Some of those reasons may be driven out of sheer necessity when other options are limited. Others may be much more strategic in the sense that an enterprise wants to build its competitive advantage or ramp up its productivity. The latter link between productivity and collaboration is not a simple question to answer, but it is a positive link nevertheless. As has been argued before by, for instance, Deloitte Access Economics, collaboration can boost productivity. Here in Australia the productivity factor is of particular interest given its poor record over the past decade.


The topic of productivity emerges regularly in mainstream media. Over the past decade or so productivity has been abysmal, as some economic analysts have pointed out. Productivity is seen as an economic issue. That makes sense provided that we have an updated version of understanding what economic means. It is much more than a numbers game. It is foremost about the nature of complex human behaviour. The topic of productivity tends to be more in the spotlight as we near Federal budget time. At this point we should expect to hear more about productivity and what is to be done about it. In the mix of solutions we are likely to hear things like labour cost as one of the ideas that some see as key to increasing productivity. On the other hand there will be pressure from groups who will baulk at those ideas. Thus the complexity as we seek to change people’s attitudes and behaviours.

As mentioned earlier, collaboration can be a strategy that may offer some innovative ways to increase productivity. We already know that collaboration can be of serious benefit in a variety of ways. At a micro level we know that people are actually more likely to be productive when they collaborate in the right way. We also know that people are likely to be more engaged in their work when they have a chance to collaborate. This is particularly important given the low employee engagement levels in virtually all western economies.

What to make of the collaboration-productivity link? One thing comes to mind; an elegant quote by the great designer Milton Glaser “If you perceive the universe as being a universe of abundance, then it will be. If you think of the universe as one of scarcity then it will be.” If you can’t quite place the name, Milton is best known for his iconic design of the I Love New York logo. While I would not go so far as suggesting that it is all in the perception, I do think that we can shape a lot with the way we observe things. The productivity solution can be sought through better collaboration between industries, as well as internally across different teams and sections of an enterprise. A global growth in the uptake of enterprise collaboration tools and platforms has in part been credited for delivering an increase in productivity dividend that competition may not always be able to meet. The key point is to realise that productivity does matter in the long run and collaboration has its role to play. The rest is up to competition.


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