Collaboration Redefined took on new meaning for me after reading, “Smart Collaboration” by Heidi K. Gardner, in regard to the application (s) of collaboration. The concept of collaboration has always been a paramount aspect of my personal and professional foundation. As noted in “Smart Collaboration”, the timeliness and application of cross-functional contributors can make the difference between a good solution and a transformational one. The market today is extremely competitive, and to thrive, businesses must generate innovative and transformational solutions for clients. The skills of innovation, idea generation, strategic thinking, problem solving, and new product development are only some of the areas (within any business or industry) that can benefit from collaboration. Collaborating to innovate is not new, yet many organizations are finding the need to define how, when, and why for their distributed teams.
The case to collaborate
Collaboration provides a wider spectrum of considerations around any topic while promoting diversity in global organizations with wide-reaching and distributed workforces.
When to collaborate
The best time to collaborate is during the early product/project cycle, when seeking innovation, and at high-impact milestones.
When not to collaborate
During moments when the execution of a task is critical, and collaboration is embedded in the plan itself. (Just Do It, moment). This applies to the concept of having an “innovation plan.”
Why to collaborate
To advance diverse thinking, which will lead to a wider spectrum of intellectual opportunity, idea generation, and inspired innovation.
Who to collaborate with
Cross-functional teams, end-users, market representatives, thought-leaders and at times, even competitors.
How to collaborate
In a fair and non-threatening environment which will not only support, but promote, open thinking against a predetermined and visible goal. This is the “gateway to innovation.”
What to expect when you collaborate
The upside to collaboration far outweighs the risk of operating in silos. That said, collaboration needs to be integrated and managed as part of the organization’s culture. Leadership must embrace the interphase of collaboration and innovation to ensure the “norm” of this behavior becomes a best practice in communication.
Some questions to ask yourself
- Does your organizational culture support team over self?
- Have you integrated the concept of collaboration and innovation in the culture?
- Does your talent pool see benefit from collaboration as a natural flow?
- Are you prepared to feel vulnerability through transparency and share ideas openly?
- Have you defined areas and/or topics that compliance, regulatory, or trade secrets may constrict collaboration?
- Have you established “ground rules” for meetings with collaboration for idea generation and ensuing innovation?
- Have you considered the best model of “cross-functional” interaction?
- Have you focused collaborative efforts on agility and results, not more process?
- Have you provided education and orientation to the practical application of collaboration for innovation?
- Does collaboration feed into your high-performance team/culture model.
In today’s world of distributed work teams, highly diverse cultures and the need for market readiness, there has never been a better time to use the “tool” of collaboration. The real challenge arises in the question; are you and your organization structured to capitalize on the benefits?