It certainly seems to make sense that collaborating can lead to better results, but it’s the sort of touchy-feely subject that many senior leaders don’t believe can lead to real bottom-line payoffs.
But new research shows that collaborating in the right way can boost revenues and profits and offer better solutions to customers, who in turn become more loyal. It can also lead to more innovation, and provides greater oversight and transparency that can reduce unethical or illegal conduct by individuals.
Heidi K. Gardner, a distinguished fellow and lecturer on law at Harvard Law School, says that she was familiar with the skepticism about collaboration, and even saw companies “suffering from collaboration overload.”
That’s when she decided to investigate.
Plunging into data, interviews and surveys, she says she was surprised by the results and found that collaboration in many cases “was even more positive than we thought.”
The key, however, is that in order for collaboration to work, it must be done in an intentional way and not just for “selfish reasons,” she says. Specifically, it must be “smart collaboration” that focuses on putting together the right people for the right reasons, she says.
“Smart collaboration relies on a real diagnosis of what problem can be eased – either complexity or scope or scale – and you have to be convinced of the importance of integrating different kinds of knowledge,” she says. “You’re not throwing a team against it because that’s what you always do or you’re just using a team as a way to dodge individual accountability.”
Many customers now seek out those firms that can offer solutions to more complex problems – such as with mergers and acquisitions – and those answers often lie in collaborative efforts, she says. Further, Gardner says customers often are willing to pay more for specialists who can collaborate because such teams can arrive at a more innovative, integrated solution.
In her new book, “Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos,” Gardner says that collaboration done the right way can work for any company, no matter its size.
“Sometimes people are doing collaboration mindlessly. There is justified cynicism (read more here)