“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” – these words may have been written a good 100 years ago, but they are more apt than ever.
Companies are faced with far-reaching changes in their organizational structures: technological networking, global integration and the transition to platform economy require increased collaboration in all areas of business.
On one hand, change sparks fear as it initially means insecurity. On the other, big opportunities and potential are also part of this change: according to Accenture’s Digital Collaboration Index study, Germany alone could increase its gross domestic product by 3.7 percent through more efficient collaboration.
The exchange of ideas and access to information brings productivity growth: 50 percent of successful performance today depends on collaboration. Ten years ago, this was just 20 percent. This means: collaboration is the motor behind digital innovation. So, it’s worth taking a look at the topic of “collaboration” — especially for businesses.
More Creativity and Innovation
Collaboration first requires discipline. It is simply wrong to not combine discipline and creativity. Because: creativity doesn’t simply flow, rather it is a process that consists of various phases. A team’s creative collaboration in particular must be subject to a process-driven approach. A basic problem in any collaboration is the fact that people think differently. Within a group, different ways of thinking collide with each other. So, the idea of how to move forward has to be discussed over and over again. This is time-consuming and often frustrating too because one or two people don’t have their voices heard.
However, if you define clear rules and standardize processes, then everyone pulls together and can make full use of their creativity. But beware: establishing structures and standardizing processes should not be equated with maximum bureaucracy and by the book solutions. There are many specific examples that show this. Together with the chair in strategic management at HHL (Leipzig Graduate School of Management), the company “die Ideeologen” surveyed the world’s most innovative companies and inquired about their corporate creativity. They identified an excess of formal structures and procedures as being one of the most typical creativity killers. The challenge is not only to design processes, but bring people together who work excellently alongside each other.
Take Nike as an example: new ideas and concepts are developed by management in “sandbox meetings”. These are subsequently passed on to a production team consisting of three employees: a designer, an engineer and a marketing expert. This team in turn develops the project’s main features. Industrial, technical and graphic designers then add to the initial concepts. So, for its innovative projects, Nike focuses on small teams that think, communicate and act quickly. And this is just one of many examples of how to shape a collaboration. It shows that collaborations require a rethink at all levels. It is important to find a path and structures that suit you well.
More transfer of knowledge and flexibility
Until the first successful projects are completed, many marketing experts fall at one major stumbling block or another. To overcome these obstacles, besides enthusiasm, you need team spirit and good communication above all. Communication in particular can quickly lead to misunderstandings, however. Whether it’s agencies, freelancers or digital nomads: marketing departments often work with external service providers and increasingly have to communicate with each other across national borders.
Due to increasing internationalization, the factors for success in project management are changing. In 2015, the German Association for Project Management (GPM) carried out a study that thoroughly looked into this topic. According to this, the international aspect of a project is characterized by project parameters including multilingualism and the time factor. Bridging the gap between individual team members requires time and coordination efforts because of the time difference. According to the publishers of the study, it is therefore important to prepare international projects in good time and in detail. A strong collaboration is also important as it ensures the optimal transfer of information and enables a flexible collaboration independent of time, place and end device.
Tools can help with this: companies often use a combination of Google Hangouts, Slack, traditional emails, Trello project management and Dropbox. This is certainly not a model for all cases. As to advance the collaboration and increase efficiency, it can be useful to map several specialized tools in a piece of software. This results in less inefficiency: emails don’t end up in a spam filter and files are not up-to-date for all project participants.
Functioning collaborations allow teams to work more effectively and create a shared sense of achievement. This establishes a bond between you and your company and colleagues. It creates a real sense of togetherness that encourages people to get the maximum out of projects. Google example: this search engine giant attaches great importance to a strong collaboration between employees from different areas of the company. Everyone shares what they have. It’s recognized that a particular capacity for innovation can be derived from a combination of three factors: discovery (learning), collaboration and fun. Google realizes that the time employees spend in its cafes can be used to strengthen the collaboration. The “management of fun” can cause one or two to go without, but it very much shows that it is an important factor in terms of a company’s appeal, as well as employee retention and collaboration. Scientific research has already dealt with this subject extensively and proves that the sense of togetherness is much more than a cuddly mentality.
Collaboration is a possible answer to the question of how increasing complexity can be avoided. Good collaborations reduce stress, and work becomes easier during critical phases as there is more freedom for you and all involved. All in all, everyone is a good deal more content and happier. Collaboration is much more than a necessary evil. It is a tool that can be used against frustration, boredom and working in silos.