Understanding collaboration and why it matters

Understanding collaboration and why it matters

People are more motivated when they have a say in decisions and accountability for results

In the past year, we’ve seen a rise in brand collaborations and partnerships between companies, many of which have produced successful campaigns, products and services. This trend is a great example of why we cannot rely only on ourselves to succeed — we must pool the expertise of others to complement our strengths, especially in today’s uncertain climate.

While we tend to think of collaboration as external, we often overlook the collaboration that happens within the organisation. The entire business can only function when the people within the organisation are working together toward common goals. Today, organisations need strong internal collaboration to drive the business to a new level.

But here’s where we can sometimes fall short. Many people don’t really understand the meaning of collaboration and the amazing benefits it has for the business. They often confuse collaboration with another term that is close in meaning — coordination.

Coordination refers to telling people what to do to achieve goals. Everyone involved doesn’t necessarily have input in the overall decisions made to guide the project or initiative. They use their expertise to get their part of the job done and may not necessarily take combined accountability for the project.

Collaboration, on the other hand refers to working together to achieve goals and create something together. When done well, it motivates people to collectively work toward goals, with all the people involved having a say in the decisions. 

Coordination can work for some teams and organisations; however, in today’s reality, it might not be sustainable for businesses. That’s why we need clarity on what collaboration really is.

Collaboration benefits organisations in several ways. First, it gives people in the organisation a sense of community and that they are contributing to the bigger picture. This means people are more accountable for playing a role in driving the goals and gives them a sense of purpose in the organisation.

Second, collaboration saves time and increases productivity. Bringing people together to work together can bring problems, but it can also bring greater results. People have different sets of strengths and weaknesses and working together can help cover each other’s weaknesses.

Finally, collaboration can drive growth and profitability. According to a study by Deloitte, organisations that make collaboration part of their overall business strategy saw four times more growth than those that do not. This is more of a side effect that comes with the first two points above.

So, how do we encourage collaboration in the organisation? The outward mindset, a concept pioneered by Dr C Terry Warner from The Arbinger Institute, is the key to driving sustainable collaboration.

According to Dr Warner, the outward mindset is the ability to see people as individuals who have their own set of goals and motivations. We all have both an outward mindset and its counterpart, an inward mindset, which refers to a mindset that sees people as obstacles to reaching our own goals.

We usually shift between both mindsets depending on the situation. When many people are involved, this can be difficult to manage and requires constant practice in engaging our outward mindset. To do this, we can use the SAM tool from the outward mindset concept.

First, we begin with S — seeing others. As mentioned, having an outward mindset is about seeing others. This means we make the effort to understand each individual’s goals and challenges at work. At this stage, we aim to truly understand their needs and see things from their perspective. 

Second, we look at A — adjusting our efforts. Once we understand others’ perspectives, goals, and challenges, we can figure out how we can support them to achieve those goals. Encouraging this kind of mindset in a team gives everyone much-needed support, and everyone’s individual goals become the team’s collective goals and results as well.

Another element we may look at is online collaboration, especially when virtual work is the new normal. The medium of collaboration may also be considered for effectiveness.

Finally, we look at M — measuring our impact. Whether it’s the feedback we receive or the overall productivity we see, measuring impact is our only way to truly see the results from collaboration. If we fail, this means we may look back on what possibly went wrong and work from there. Rather than a straight process, SAM should be approached in a cyclical way.

Collaboration, especially in today’s uncertain environment, is becoming more difficult but at the same time, more crucial for business. The business landscape has shifted and thus, new approaches are required to meet the needs of the organisation and the people it is counting on to succeed.


Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC — Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@seasiacenter.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa. Explore and experience our lifelong learning ecosystem today at https://www.yournextu.com



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