What does collaboration mean to you? If your instinctive answer was that collaboration means working together then you are not alone, but forgive me if I come up with a supplementary question and ask what working together really means?
You see, for many, in business and in life, collaboration or working together is just another way of explaining task allocation. We need to paint the house so you wash the walls down while I go out and buy the paint. We need to come up with a great advert so you write the words while I source a picture. For many these would be good examples of collaboration and yet all they really are is a way of sharing out jobs that need to be done. True collaboration, especially in order to drive innovation is another level again. True collaboration means bouncing ideas off each other; true collaboration means leveraging individual talents and knowledge to enable groups to come up with something far greater than can be achieved by one person alone; in fact true collaboration means that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Collaboration is the 2nd of three core ingredients for building a Next Generation Organisation. Along with intelligence and adaptability, collaboration enables organisations to transform their culture into one able to co-create powerful ideas, deliver differentiated and exceptional customer experiences and change the game.
PERQ is one example of an organisation, which really understands the importance of collaboration. As a marketing and technology company, PERQ describes itself as ‘a company built of people who love winning the game of business and working towards the common goal of achieving success for our clients’.
In common with a growing number of organisations in its field PERQ understands the importance of workplace design and offers extras such as chill out zones and fitness areas. The PERQ difference is that this organisation understands the way in which these areas are not just a ‘perk’ but are essential elements in driving collaboration. As PERQ’s marketing coordinator, Tim Hickle, said in a blog on their site;
“In order for your employees to be in a position to innovate, they need to be able to collaborate with other employees with different perspectives. Some of our best ideas have come from employees in completely different roles talking over a round of horse at our basketball goal.”
In fact having a ‘collaborative, team-focused environment’ is listed as one of the benefits of working at PERQ. And this deeper understanding of collaboration comes up time and time again in the company’s website, in its outward messages to the world and in articles which are written about it. Whilst PERQ may not be alone in its focus on collaboration, on building internal and external strategic communities, sadly 66% of major UK business leaders claim their current organisational structure makes it difficult to share knowledge and understanding and that’s a major barrier for innovation.
But, I hear you ask, isn’t innovation only for new young companies? Why should a more traditionally based, long standing, rule driven organisation even try to transform their culture to be more collaborative and innovative? Quite simply, because if you don’t then your organisation may be the next casualty in the increasingly agile world. I talk about organisations which adopt intelligence, collaboration and adaptability as Next Generation Organisations simply because they are the ones which are going to still be in business when the next generation grows up. In a recent UK survey 75% of CEOs said;
“fast-changing market conditions are forcing companies to reinvent themselves quicker than ever before.”
That means organisations are going to have to figure out what the next ‘iteration’ of themselves needs to be and make plans to morph shape, structure and adapt in order to stay relevant. One major barrier is that 62% of business leaders admit it’s ‘almost impossible’ to gain support to test and develop ideas. Unless that changes the ability for organisations to innovate and move from the old game to the new game is at risk.
The cold truth is that the business world is changing and everyone in business needs to change with it. The world in which I did this and you did that and never our paths should cross is the world of yesterday.
Everyone says they want or even need to innovate but few actually do. If you want to be one of the few and you’ve got a question? Ask Cris… firstname.lastname@example.org
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Cris Beswick is a strategic advisor on innovation and author. He is also the author of The Road to Innovation, and featured on BBC radio and TV. He is also a contributor for The Times, Financial Times, The Independent, CEO Magazine, Director Magazine, HR Magazine and The Sunday Telegraph. @CrisBeswick