The traditional notion that you have to out-compete your rivals in order to succeed in business is shifting as companies worldwide discover that collaboration can be just as effective—and as profitable—as competition.
Senior management needs to set the tone when it comes to developing and implementing collaboration best practices, including everything from interdepartmental cooperation to partnerships with other companies.
“Collaboration is a process to achieve an outcome, not a means to itself," says Michael Grove, CEO of CollabWorks, a management consulting firm. “Collaboration needs to be driven by a purpose, a direction, an outcome. Those doing the work are best to gauge when and how to collaborate. Senior management is best served by encouraging leadership and collaborative innovation at all levels of the organization."
Technology tools, such as video conferencing and document sharing, are making it easier than ever before for employees and work teams to connect across borders and time zones. “Tech tools are clearly enabling us to communicate—particularly virtually," says Grove. “It makes collaboration easy and simple."
While platforms such as Zoom and Skype can connect virtual teammates, partners and customers, developing a culture of cooperation still requires a fundamental shift in the way a company operates. “Clearly the more fluid an organization can utilize its talent to address needs, the more agile the organization," says Grove. “Management styles that allow teams to form and individuals to contribute outside traditional hierarchy will generate more value from its talent than those structurally limiting how the talent is being used."
Collaboration Goes Global
Grove predicts that the most productive organizations of the future will be those that continuously transform the use of their talent to better align the needs for growth by the individual and the needs for execution by the company.
While digital tools can close the gap for global collaborators, David Coleman, director of research at CollabWorks, says it's important for team leaders to recognize that remote collaborators can miss visual cues and non-verbal communication that is a natural part of an interaction between people who are co-located in the same space.
Collaboration is a process to achieve an outcome, not a means to itself.
—Michael Grove, CEO, CollabWorks
Language also can be an issue, says Coleman, especially when English is not the first language of everyone on the call.
But global organizations have to adapt. For example, Coleman says, one important collaboration strategy is shifting meeting times so that the pain of meeting outside of normal office hours is shared. Some companies, he says, have even aligned their workdays of all of their teams to overlap during the same eight-hour window in order to facilitate collaboration and communication.
The global marketplace is going digital. Companies with the agility and focus to harness new technology tools and to optimize remote work groups will be well-positioned to compete in rapidly changing world markets.