"In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who have learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed".
F1 teams, high tech manufacturers, Universities and ‘Big Pharma’ have worked together to produce ventilators and vaccines.
We have also seen plenty of reminders of the extent to which ‘tribal behaviour’ between different groups can halt progress.
Recent political events in the US are a stark example of what can happen when energy and power are focused on division rather than unity.
As ‘Homo Sapiens’ we are hard-wired to collaborate. Interestingly, other, less successful branches of the human tree, such as the Neanderthals, are thought to have been largely non-collaborative beings. However, even we Homo Sapiens are only likely to collaborate with those we see as part of our ‘tribe’.
We have seen what positive collaboration can do. We now need to build on such shining examples of positive collaboration to meet the challenges of the next 12 months, and indeed future years.
In our organisations we will need, as a minimum, to:
This great ambition presents numerous challenges.
For example, we tend to know less about the psychology behind collaboration than we do about individual performance and behaviour – there are big knowledge gaps.
Effort will be needed – great collaborative teamwork across functions, levels of hierarchy and organisations, does not happen without deliberate, sustained effort.
One of the most striking features of organisations (such as NASA, Pixar, and Google) who succeed in creating this kind of collaborative culture, is how much energy they invest in this.
Harvard Professor Amy Edmundson’s concept of ‘Teaming’
Amy describes ‘Teaming’ as teamwork ‘on the fly’. It consists of rapid coordination and communication between people who don’t know each other well, to achieve mutual goals.
The big difference between ‘teaming’ and ‘teams’ is that teams are stable bounded entities. A stable team is like a professional basketball team. People get to know each other and their different strengths. They build trust over time, and they practice performing together.
As powerful as it is to build high performing teams, an increasing amount of our most important work depends on collaboration across boundaries. This type of collaboration is more comparable to a group of strangers forming a spontaneous team of ‘pick up’ basketball.
To build effective collaboration at pace, individuals need to be comfortable bringing their contribution to any group immediately, as well as skilled in seeking out and being open to the ideas of others.
And leaders need to be skilled at creating the conditions for collaboration to emerge.
How do we create the psychology of ‘One Tribe’ across these apparent boundaries?
The key is to try and overcome four human factors that inhibit the quality of collaboration within and between groups:
Could greater collaboration be a game changer in your industry or organisation?
If you want to learn more about the important role of coaching in supporting team performance and collaboration in your organisation, why not take a look at our two professional development courses which consider how coaching skills can be used by managers. START: Coaching for resilience and CREATE: Developing a coaching culture