Authors: Jeff Shuman and Jan Twombly
Today collaboration is vital because organizations realize they can no longer go it alone. To survive and prosper in today’s globally networked economy, organizations know that they must bridge their structural silos and successfully collaborate both internally and externally. Collaboration is no longer an option; it is a requirement for innovation and growth.
Yet as collaborative capability becomes more the imperative, organizations continue to have difficulty making collaboration successful over the long term. Does this mean that, while collaboration works in theory, it can’t be practically applied? Not at all. But the question does strike at the heart of the problem, which is that collaborative relationships by definition are always between the individual people who interact. Thus, a relationship between two or more organizations is really the result of individual relationships between and among the people in the different organizations who are tasked with collaborating. And that’s when the challenge begins—in the building of all those grassroots collaborative working relationships.
A clear sign that a skill or ability is valuable is when it begins to find its way into the competencies used to evaluate employee performance. Such is the case today with collaboration. When practiced appropriately, collaboration is a set of behaviors—a way of working that involves coordinating specific activities and communicating certain information to leverage resources in the purposeful pursuit of objectives. It requires an environment of trust and transparency. Collaboration opens up the possibility of accessing the resources, knowledge, and relationships other people and organizations have and using each party’s resources for mutual benefit. It also introduces the rather chilling prospect of counting on someone who has no stake in your success. Thus, collaboration is a sophisticated ability that depends on much agility in utilizing a range of skills through an iterative process of achieving desired outcomes.
Download the PDF to read the full paper, including a longitudinal case study of collaboration in the pharmaceutical industry.