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True collaboration means genuinely working together, sharing knowledge and experiences in a quest for the delivery of real solutions.
In the women’s 5000 m at the Olympic Games two runners collided. They then helped each other to get back on their feet and carry on to complete the course. No matter that they were from different countries, the instinct was to look after each other. Unsurprisingly, this display of sportsmanship has been hailed as one of the memorable moments of the Rio Olympics.
Why have their actions received so much notice? Surely collaboration and working together towards a common goal is now part of everyday life? Well sadly not! Even though words such as collaboration and teamwork and engaging in a shared goal have become part of the business lexicon, the reality is that the prevailing attitude is still ‘me first’ and ‘my company before all others.’
So we praise people for helping each other, when in reality we should condemn them if they don’t. But deep down we also know that the isolationist way of looking at our world has to change. Millennials which are now well and truly embedded in the workforce and Generation Z which follows on are far more attuned to the interconnectedness of things. Moreover, business leaders are increasingly acknowledging the importance of building a culture of innovation in order to deliver differentiated products and experiences; and quite frankly that’s not going to happen unless you are open to collaboration.
Let’s be clear, when we talk about collaboration we aren’t simply referring to maintaining an expanded team within an individual organisation. Nor are we looking towards some kind of expanded job share scheme where I do this and you do that and together we get it done. True collaboration means genuinely working together, sharing knowledge and experiences in a quest for the delivery of real solutions.
More importantly, true collaboration isn’t simply an internal organisational affair. It requires the drawing in of customers and suppliers, of research organisations, of interested individuals and even competitors. In an increasingly homogenous world it is the way in which we collaborate and look for solutions that will differentiate us. It is also the way we can ensure that our customers benefit from products and services which they really need, rather than ones which we think will simply bring us the greatest profit.
Today we marvel at the sportsmanship shown by two competitors who were simply looking to help each other. Hopefully one day in the not too distant future we will cease to see such collaboration as being something special, instead accepting it as a normal part of working together to deliver greatness.