Collaboration is a hot topic at the moment, and I don’t believe it’s just because it’s having it’s moment in the sun. The shift in personal connections and communications, powered by social media tools, has led people to share ideas and experiences in far greater numbers than ever before. Personal technology (according to this survey soon over 80% of internet traffic will be generated by smartphones) allows us all to communicate with our industry or professional peers, regardless of whether it’s promoted / allowed by corporate policemen.
Smart organisations are looking to take advantage of this. They know that when people share ideas and information good things happen. They know they have valuable information stored away in archives and in people’s experiences, and that these connections can help unlock that value and allow it to be applied to the problems and opportunities the organisation faces every day. What company wouldn’t want to find a way to stop the dispiriting waste of effort when one team replicates the work of another, simply because they didn’t know that the work had already been done? How many times have you found someone else was working on the same problem you were, or at least something similar enough that a combined effort would have done the work in half the time?
So far, so good. The tools are out there, the willingness is there from the top. But still, it doesn’t always work. Sadly, corporate culture is not always threaded with a collaborative attitude. I have heard people respond to a request for information with ‘Yes, we’ve done that research. But why should *you* get the benefit?’ To people in their own company. People that are working to create value for the entire organisation.
Sounds crazy, but I bet a lot of people reading this have been there. Why do people act this way. Sometimes because of the simple ‘knowledge is power’ maxim. Sometimes because of a lack of trust - will this be passed off as your work? Sometimes because of a lack of faith in the information itself, or the relevance. All of it is unhelpful, some of it toxic, and if collaboration is going to work in your organisation, it’s got to be addressed.
Tackling the silo mentality takes effort, but the tools exist. If your internal intranet / collaboration tool allows anyone to contact anyone, regardless of function and position in the hierarchy, that’s a start. It should explain who does what, who’s worked on which projects, and where they are in the world. Cross-functional mentoring is also a cool way to encourage collaboration. Seeding an interest in what other teams do and the synergies between the various parts of the business is a win-win.
As with any problem, solving the collaboration conundrum isn’t about the tool you choose. It’s about creating the culture that recognises and rewards sharing as a value-add activity in its own right.