What do you get when you channel multiple people’s skills together under one objective? Collaboration!
However your organization collaborates, and whether it does so effectively or not, collaboration is happening all the time. In fact, collaboration is so fundamental that sometimes you don’t even realize you’re doing it.
To give you a guiding definition, collaboration is when two or more people work together to a common goal. Collaborating leverages the skills, values and vantage points of multiple contributors. In the professional world, collaborations can take place within your organization or between your organization and another person or group.
What Are The Benefits Of Collaboration?
The benefits of collaboration are bigger than just adding together all the skills each collaborator brings. In fact, the different talents and experiences react together like Mentos in a bottle of Coke, swelling to produce powerful results that are only possible when these people come together.
In other words, collaboration amplifies creativity, resourcefulness and ingenuity.
Collaboration also shapes organizational culture, whether it’s a project including horizontal or vertical collaborators. Teammates see the value of their contributions, and the results prove the capacity of the larger team—and, by extension, the organization.
A quick snapshot of the benefits collaboration brings to your organization include:
- Greater flexibility to meet needs
- Greater efficiency
- Improved team culture
- More productive meetings
- More creative ideas and execution
- Happier teammates
- More accessible leadership
The 6 Elements Of Successful Collaboration
Collaborating can yield great results, but only if done right. To get you on the right path, I outline the six fundamental elements of a successful collaboration below. Depending on the nature of your collaboration, you might have one team member who takes over one of these essential elements thanks to a natural talent in the same. Maybe each one of your collaborators will ultimately take one of these on. As long as these elements are each guided by one or more members of the group, your collaboration will reach its maximum success.
1: Shared Goals
Having a shared goal is why you’re collaborating in the first place. You and your team want to get to the same destination, and you’re energized to work together to get there faster and with more to show for it. Just be sure to articulate that shared goal early and often.
2: Standards And Expectations
It’s crucial not just to have standards and expectations, but to state them throughout your collaboration. For example, if a standard is set that specific, individual items have to be delivered on time to avoid putting the subsequent deliverables at risk, everyone should be aware of that expectation as well as the consequences of failure.
Trust is built by a team of collaborators knowing they can rely on each other. Without that reliability, you don’t have trust. Without trust, you don’t have a team. Relying on others to hold up “their end” of the bargain can be a challenge for some, and this is where the standards and expectations I just talked about are particularly helpful. Articulate expectations and empower the team to hold one another to them. The success of each collaboration depends on joint efforts and contributions.
Need help building accountability within and even outside collaborations? Read my recent article about it.
4: Active Communication
Effective communication is active communication and separates successful collaborations from ineffective ones. Collaborations start with clear instructions and work to keep channels open for active and productive communication over the course of work. This means promoting feedback and listening actively to each member of the team. Not only does this build camaraderie, it also provides the transparency a team needs to optimally meet responsibilities and expectations.
5: Conflict Management
It’s inevitable. When you get a bunch of people together, especially to work on something, there will be friction. People will disagree. Opinions will clash. Establish a system at the start of a collaboration to work through these disagreements, and talk to the team about it before the project even starts. Having proactive processes in place to get to the bottom of a disagreement and resolve it with clear next steps is the only way to avoid friction becoming team-destroying animosity.
6: The Right Leadership
A successful collaboration will have natural leaders. Maybe one team member will stand out as the conflict manager, easily equipped to break down disagreements and help steer the team to a collaborative decision. Maybe another team member will keep everyone adhering to their deadlines. Or maybe one person takes on all aspects of leadership in the collaboration, whether due to status or natural talents.
Whether you’re a project manager or a manager or owner who simply can’t outsource this kind of collaboration management, being tasked with guiding a team toward a shared target is not easy. It requires focus on all of the elements above, it requires organization skills, and it requires a fusion of technical and personal talents to help everyone in the collaboration get the most out of it they can.
These six fundamental elements to successful collaboration also represent the points you should cover with your team as soon as any collaboration begins. Use this article as your checklist to kick your collaboration off, ensuring each of these elements is understood.
These elements also need to be revisited time and time again. Discuss them when your collaboration is underway and discuss them when your collaboration has finished. They need to be continually revisited to keep everyone aligned. There’s much to be learned from collaboration post mortems, so don’t overlook getting into that valuable habit as well.
Who Should Collaborate?
Collaboration has become a bit of a corporate buzzword, but that doesn’t mean it’s lost its meaning. Some things, they say, are “cliché for a reason.” In the case of collaboration, this rings true. Organizations and ventures of all sizes can use collaboration to maximize their efforts and move faster and more ambitiously toward their respective visions.
When it comes to different industries, then, everyone collaborates. No one is excluded from the benefits collaboration can bring.
Collaborations can also happen on a horizontal or vertical scale at your organization. This will depend on the project at hand as well as the size and structure of your team. These six essential elements of successful collaborations are the same whether or not one of the contributors is technically the “boss.” In fact, company culture tends to benefit even more from active communication taking place across vertical collaborations.
Interestingly, even “lone-wolf” operations can benefit from collaboration with other people or organizations outside their own, too. Inter-organizational collaborations, in fact, have taken some interesting shapes in recent years.
Influencer marketing, for example, is a kind of inter-organizational collaboration. The influencer industry represented around $8 Billion in marketing dollars spent last year alone. This is more of a “purchased collaboration,” but helps paint a picture of how much organizations stand to gain from getting help from outside entities.
For example, inter-organizational collaborations of a more organic sort can result in greater reach for each of the collaborating parties. They can also mean better product or service offerings for both, as well as more expansive reach and dynamic growth. The key? Find individuals or organizations that share and can get equally excited about your goals, and see how you can each contribute something to elevate one another’s organization and the mission you share.
Where To Go For Inter-organizational Collaborations
Let’s get the wheels turning. When looking for inter-organizational collaborations, start by revisiting your organization’s mission. Who else supports that mission, but in a different way? Think about:
- High-profile members of the community
- Other organizations with different but related offerings
- Similar organizations to yours in other markets
Once you have a shortlist of possibilities, start some conversations. Your collaboration could begin with putting two heads together over a call to decide how an inter-organizational collaboration could mutually benefit both parties.
What collaborations have you been part of recently that have been a massive success or a total bust? Start the conversation with me today!