Collaboration Is What Makes 1 + 1 = 3

A source of ignition to accelerate growth: Collaboration

​A much used phrase in Business is ”No man is an island” and it’s very telling because many businesses are not a one-man band. Rather it’s multiple people coming together around a common mission, vision and strategy to create value for their customers, owners and themselves. That means they have to work together to achieve the best possible outcome. In other words, they need to collaborate towards achieving a common goal to be successful. That’s also why Collaboration is a key ingredient in having high Business Acumen. This is the topic for James O’Brien and my continuing series about how CXOs can increase Business Acumen in their organizations and how business partners in support functions can use Business Acumen to drive value creation together with their stakeholders. The series is built on the work behind the Business Acumen Gauge. This week we dive into how getting teams and peers to collaborate means that individuals can become more than the sum of their individual abilities.

People say they want to collaborate but are they actually collaborating?

Collaboration to many has become a buzzword that is said in all organizations but rarely truly exercised. You have to wonder how come but before we try to answer this question let’s look at what Collaboration really means.

  • Collaboration means being cooperative and willingly sharing information to improve the organization
  • Building team work and being a team player
  • Working across teams, functions, geographies etc. through finding common goals
  • Creating new opportunities for people to work together by breaking down barriers in the organization

We doubt that this is news to you either as it seems obvious what it means working together with other people. However, how can 1 + 1 = 3 simply by working together? Well, to a large extent it is because people go beyond themselves to strive for a shared goal. It is because people agree to that they’re only rewarded when the team succeeds rather than the individual. It is because you fully trust in other people’s capabilities i.e. you leave a task with someone else without any doubt that they will deliver on it and do an excellent job. It is also due to the simple fact that people are different and have different capabilities that can complement each other. Without these complementary capabilities, your own strengths won’t be as effective as they could be. So, the 1 + 1 = 3 is a result of other people’s capabilities amplifying your own.

If you’re willing to take those steps you have made progress towards opening to real collaboration and not just something where everyone is faking it and are trying to get as much out of it for themselves as possible.

Can’t you give me a checklist so I can gage into if people are collaborating?

Clearly there’s no straightforward formula to determining whether people are truly collaborating but a number of rules or let’s call it guidance can be laid out for people to follow to become better at collaborating.

  • First, people should be aware of the need for collaboration and striving for a common purpose.
  • Then it should be clear that the end goal is to reach a consensus on a decision. There might be disagreements or different viewpoints along the way but at the end of it people stand together behind the decision.
  • Despite the need for reaching a consensus people should also have room for deciding for themselves when things need to happen i.e. they can’t be dictated by others.
  • There’s a clear expectation for everyone to participate leaving no room for free riders.
  • There’s going to be a lot of mediation and negotiation to reach a consensus and this is perfectly well accepted in any kind of collaboration.
  • People should be openly sharing what’s on their minds.
  • It shouldn’t be expected that an agreement is always reached on the first suggestion that pops up. Alternatives should always be considered.
  • Everyone engages in the work and don’t wait to share an opinion only at the end.

This makes it easy to see if what you’re participating in is a true collaboration or something else. It also allows you to call it out if people are not in it for the team but rather for themselves.

Have you ever experienced a collaboration that worked to the benefit of everyone or are you mostly used to just meeting the buzzword? Share your experiences for the benefits of the reader and we’ll happily discuss how you can increase the effectiveness of your collaboration skills so you can increase your overall Business Acumen and become better at driving value creation!


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