Collaboration not only improves individual outcomes, it also creates new energy in and of itself. Consider an orchestra; each section made up of individually talented musicians working together, and each section working together to achieve their common goal: creating beautiful music. The energy the orchestra creates is felt by the listeners.

The energy created by the orchestra is not accidental or incidental, nor is the collaboration required to create this energy forced upon the musicians. They come together because they share the same vision. Their goals are aligned. They understand and respect the roles that others play. Individually, they each combine their natural talent with the skills they have honed through training and rehearsal to contribute to this collaboration.

If you could listen to your organization what would you hear? Can you feel the energy it generates?


There is no doubt that successful collaboration can produce faster outcomes at a larger scale than individuals can alone. It also increases the chances of generating new innovation and ideas. These are obvious benefits that could be attributed simply to having a larger pool of resources and ideas to draw from. There are other, perhaps less obvious benefits to collaboration that go beyond this simple availability of resources, like the energy created in the orchestra example above.

  • better alignment to and focus on goals
  • increased self-awareness in individuals
  • skills transfer
  • organizational connectedness
  • increased ability to adapt and pivot
  • increased ability to overcome organizational barriers

There are some key elements needed for successful collaboration. You should recognize some of these elements as items we covered in earlier topics.

  • shared vision
  • common goals
  • clearly defined and transparent roles
  • candor and open dialogue
  • elimination of communication barriers
  • common tools
  • agreed structure and governance
  • mutual trust and respect

Trust is important. More than any other element, mutual trust and respect is the basis of successful collaboration, and the reality of this one is that it just takes time. If you put all the other elements in place, trust and respect will follow.

Teams are rarely perfect. Even with all these elements in place there is the possibility of dysfunction. Some possible dysfunctional behaviours you need to be aware of are:

  • groupthink
  • group reliance to the detriment of self reliance
  • information overload
  • excessive time spent in meetings

You can’t force successful collaboration. Forced collaboration comes with a high risk of generating negative conflict. Instead, engineer opportunities for collaboration and support collaborative efforts with the right tools and structure.

insights & further reading

Results from a recent study in one industry showed that ”…teams of six or more people generated concepts that performed 58% better with consumers in pre-market testing than the brands’ initial, “starting point” concepts. Those starting point concepts were developed by teams of two people and performed only 16% better than baseline results with consumers”1

A study of over 1,100 companies showed that “companies that promoted collaborative working were 5 times as likely to be high performing”2


Engineer opportunities for collaboration

  • adopt collaboration software and include it in the everyday activities of your people
  • be 100% transparent in vision, goals, and role definitions
  • make collaboration a part of goals at all levels
    • use of C.R.A.P. goals include a collaborative requirement
  • foster open communication between all levels of organizational hierarchy
  • explore opportunities for engineering physical connections
  • encourage and incentivize cross-silo learning of function specific language and jargon

Measure collaboration

  • easy if you have adopted good C.R.A.P. goals
    • Appreciable requirement includes measurement
  • adopt tools to allow you to perform social network analysis on the connections between your people

The use of collaboration software can be a powerful tool for encouraging collaboration. Wide adoption of the right products will drive natural collaboration and also support the autonomous work principles discussed in earlier topics.

Beware of information overload, and engineer opportunities for people to “disconnect” from the hub.

methods & tools

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