People in the contemporary workplace (read: high performing, highly motivated, competitive and resilient) expect to be given three things: meaningful work, appropriate reward and ample opportunities to collaborate. That last bit often gets neglected by executive decision makers, who in many instances ascended to those positions via old cultures where collaboration was not rewarded and certainly was not part of any business strategy. Thus the likely disconnect between the top and bottom ends.
The lack of a strategic approach to collaboration is the single biggest hurdle to getting results and creating a culture where employees are starved of opportunities to collaborate. Hence the risk of collaboration recession; depleting the business of innovation potential, talent, creativity and engagement.
By the way, collaboration strategy is not about leadership simply ‘encouraging’ staff to collaborate; it is also about setting clear goals and providing a means for collaboration. So, what can be done to avoid the danger of losing the best opportunities that collaboration brings to business?
Collaboration is principally a strategy. That means having a reasonable focus on longer term outcome and impact. Some tactical manoeuvring is part of the strategy, but its essence is in building the strategy in a way that looks, feels and quacks like collaboration. It creates an operating system for a business to better leverage its capability to work with other capability systems, wherever they may be found. Even within the biggest competitors.
Collaboration worth the investment is also notoriously challenging for a whole host of reasons; from active resistance to a lack of trust through to designing good governance models for collaborative projects. That being said, collaboration is also an astonishingly fertile space for innovation and creativity.
Collaborate on your feet! Collaboration strategy provides a strategic roadmap, but it still demands creative thinking because collaboration often occurs between entities that are not as integrated and familiar with each other. Even the best businesses can experience a lack of integration within. But a lack of knowledge should not impede managers from different businesses from achieving results that are strategic if they allow room for adjustments, changes and/or adaptations that result from a healthy commitment to collaborative problem solving.
Considering collaboration as an inevitable part of business makes a difference and most staff would appreciate, and in return reward, those who respond to their workplace needs. What more can business leadership ask for?