Working together – the most important skill in any team. However, also the toughest one. Collaboration is where many great companies struggle. Why? Because it is highly influenced by the individual personalities within your team. It’s a fine line between not having personalities clash, and making them work together in unison to achieve something incredible. Ah yes, mastering collaboration truly is a tricky skill.
We dive deep into the topic of collaboration, and cover some important skills, our favorite tools and how collaboration might look like in the future. After reading this guide, you will know about the most important aspects of collaboration, and can start to revolutionize the way you and your team work together. So, let’s dive in.
Looking for a quick explanation rather than an extensive guide? We got you covered. Essentially, collaboration can be defined as the process of two or more individuals or groups working together towards a shared goal or objective. It involves a mutual understanding and agreement on the objectives, tasks, and responsibilities of each individual or group involved, and a commitment to achieving the desired outcome through cooperation and communication. Let’s look at a concrete example.
Let’s say you own a consumer goods company, and your marketing team wants to develop a new advertising campaign for one of your products. The team consists of individuals from different departments, including marketing, design, and research.
To ensure that the departments collaborate effectively, the team holds regular meetings to discuss ideas and progress, and they use online collaboration tools to share and edit documents in real-time. The team also conducts market research to understand the target audience and use the insights gained to build their campaign. By doing so, the team is able to create a successful advertising campaign that resonates with the target audience and results in increased sales of the product.
Why is collaboration important?
So you see, collaboration is essential for keeping your business productive and effective, and should be a vital part in your vision statement. Let’s look at some concrete reasons why collaboration is so important in the workplace.
1. Building Workplace culture
A sense of community goes hand in hand with shared responsibilities. When individuals collaborate to reach a common goal, they develop a shared sense of purpose and belonging, which can foster a positive and supportive work environment.
In our own team, we immensely care about the organizational corporate culture we generate. In our current organizational structure, we work in small teams of 8 people max. Within those teams, employees from different departments work together on projects and tasks. This way, we promote open communication, active listening, and mutual respect among team members, which are all essential components of a healthy workplace culture. By working in these small units, individuals can develop trust and build relationships, leading to a more cohesive and productive team dynamic. All thanks to collaboration!
2. Combining diverse strengths
Your employees are amazing, and not just because they choose to work for your company. Each one has their own skills and strengths that make them unique and incredibly valuable. How to double that value? Make them collaborate and share their skills with their colleagues!
Picture this: One person may be an expert in data analysis, while another excels in creative thinking. By working collaboratively, they can combine their strengths to analyze complex problems, generate innovative solutions, and achieve better outcomes. In this way, collaboration enables your employees to leverage their individual strengths and benefit from the strengths of others, leading to a more well-rounded and successful team dynamic. By fostering collaboration, you’ll be left with a stronger and more effective team, while also giving your employees the chance to learn new skills.
3. Enhancing creativity and innovation
Let’s be real: Without innovative ideas, your company will have a super hard time on the fast-paced and ever-changing market. However, the creativity of one person alone definitely has its limits. The solution? You guessed it: Collaboration!
When individuals are encouraged to share their ideas and perspectives with others, new and unique solutions will be the outcome. By collaborating, they can brainstorm and build on each other’s ideas, leading to more creative and innovative approaches to problem-solving. Collaboration also enables the individuals in your team to challenge each other’s assumptions and perspectives, leading to a more open-minded and diverse range of ideas.
4. Increasing productivity
Many companies struggle with productivity and output. However, this problem can easily be counteracted by collaborating in the right way. When employees know how to use their strengths to the advantage of the team, they have an easier time dividing tasks and responsibilities, leading to a more efficient use of time and resources.
Collaboration also enables individuals to share knowledge and resources, leading to more efficient problem-solving and decision-making. By working collaboratively, teams can achieve more in less time, leading to increased productivity and success. Ultimately, collaboration allows individuals to live by the rule: Work smarter, not harder. Leverage the strengths of each team member to achieve the desired outcome.
5. Build trust and respect
Trust and respect form the basis of getting things done. However, these aspects also take a lot of time to form in your team. Collaboration builds trust and respect because it requires individuals to rely on each other to achieve a common goal. When people work together, they develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for each other’s work, leading to greater trust and respect among team members.
When the individuals in your team feel heard and valued, they are more likely to trust and respect their colleagues, leading to a more positive and supportive work environment. Ultimately, collaboration is essential to building trust and respect among team members, which are crucial components of a healthy and successful workplace culture.
6. Providing a learning opportunity
Every day’s a school day, that also rings true for the working world. Collaboration provides a learning opportunity because it enables individuals to share their knowledge, skills, and expertise with each other. When people work together, they can learn from each other’s experiences, perspectives, and approaches, leading to a more well-rounded understanding of the task or problem at hand. It also poses as a great opportunity for your employees to not only grow as a professional, but as a person in general.
Collaboration also provides an opportunity to challenge assumptions and explore new ideas, leading to greater personal and professional growth. By working collaboratively, individuals can expand their knowledge and skills, and develop a deeper appreciation for the strengths and abilities of their colleagues.
7. Enabling better decision-making
Work is just a continuous string of making decisions, so it would be a fine thing if your employees are good at it. Collaboration promotes better decision-making because it encourages individuals to consider different perspectives and viewpoints. When people work together, they can leverage their collective knowledge and expertise to make informed and effective decisions.
When making a decision alone, it’s not always easy to consider alternative approaches to problem-solving. By working collaboratively, teams can identify potential challenges and opportunities, and develop strategies to address them, leading to more successful outcomes.
8. Enhancing communication
Collaboration and communication – Probably two of THE most used buzzwords of the last few years. And for good reason. When people work together, they must communicate with each other to share information, ask questions, and provide feedback. Collaboration enhances communication because it requires individuals to engage in active listening and to express their ideas and opinions clearly and effectively.
Collaboration also promotes open communication, creating an environment where individuals feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. Collaboration also enables individuals to learn from each other’s communication styles, leading to more effective and efficient communication in the future. So, you see, collaboration and communication cannot exist without each other.
Collaboration does not necessarily have to be the same across the board. Did you know that there are several different collaboration types? Experts differentiate between task-oriented, social, knowledge, learning, network collaboration and many more.
Don’t worry, many important aspects of collaboration can be learned and acquired over time. For managers, we recommend to actively give your team the ability to foster collaboration skills during everyday work and with the help of team development measures.
- Flexibility: Collaboration is never static, and needs to be met with a certain flexibility. We understand, holding on to the usual workflow feels comfortable and secure. However, being open to new ideas, approaches and perspectives is essential for success. Only when your team is adaptable, you are able to adjust plans and strategies as needed.
- Respectful workflow: Respectful coworking can mean different things to different people. Communication on eye-level, keeping deadlines in check, and valuing each other’s time are essential aspects of a respectful work environment. Be reliable, honest, and value diverse perspectives and experiences.
- Problem-solving: Problems come and go – Collaboration can help you to solve them efficiently. Developing strong problem-solving skills, such as critical thinking, creativity, and the ability to work through challenges, can help teams to achieve their goals more effectively.
- Leadership: As a leader, you play a crucial role in ensuring that the collaboration within your team runs smoothly. Only with strong leadership skills can you and your colleagues facilitate group discussions, delegate tasks and manage conflict effectively.
- Emotional intelligence: Having smart team members is of no use if they lack emotional intelligence and, therefore, cannot collaborate effectively. Collaboration involves working closely with others, and emotional intelligence is crucial for building strong relationships and resolving conflicts. This includes skills such as self-awareness, empathy, and the ability to regulate emotions. Those are valuable skills in all aspects of life, by the way.
Ever heard about a Leadership Circle before? It is a leadership development framework and assessment tool that helps individuals and organizations to grasp their individual leadership styles and strengths, as well as areas for improvement.
The concept of “Creative Leadership” lies at its core, which emphasizes the integration of both left-brain and right-brain thinking to create effective leadership. The framework includes a range of competencies, including authenticity, integrity, courage, vision, and collaboration.
How to achieve collaboration effectiveness
One of the most important skills in collaboration: Achieving collaboration effectiveness. All the skills mentioned above are useless if you cannot find a way to realize them effectively. Effective collaboration requires a combination of communication, trust, and shared goals. Here are some strategies for achieving effective collaboration:
Establish clear goals and expectations
- We have worked with OKRs in the past, which has made reaching our company goals a lot easier. Each employee set individual goals that aligned with the company OKR. Employees have the chance to directly impact the performance of the company while accomplishing their own goals.
- Implementing regular update meetings to your collaboration process makes it easier to track progress. Every month, employees hold a 1on1 meeting with their managers. We talk about projects, aspects we might struggle with, and go over our company values. Not only great for keeping an eye on collaboration, but also on the mental health of your employees.
OKR is an abbreviation for Objectives and Key Results. It’s a management method that focuses on setting an overarching goals and smaller key results that help you get there. This method is great for planning goals as well as achieving cross-functional teams collaboration, and is an integral for many agile teams.
Make sure your culture is on point
Here’s the thing: Your employees will probably not collaborate, if they can’t stand each other. Foster a culture of collaboration within the team, encouraging individuals to share ideas, seek feedback, and work together to achieve common goals. We know, this is easier said than done. But there are certain methods that will help you get there.
- Use the power of team development: Building a strong team all on your own is hard, and getting that team to collaborate is even harder. However, you don’t have to do it alone. Team development means are specifically targeted to your struggles and will help aid you on your journey to creating the best team ever.
- Embrace diversity: Everyone is different, and it will work in your favor. But remember: Employees will only bring their unique skills and ideas to the table, when they feel accepted for their opinions. So make sure you foster an inclusive culture, that sparks creativity and innovation.
We swear on the power of team development, which is also reflected in our services. We strongly believe that team development should not be exclusive for offline companies. Interested in taking your remote company to the next level? Then have a browse through our super diverse team development solutions. We would love to help you out!
Effective collaboration: Example
Still not sure how the best case scenario of a collaborative company could look like? We’ll help you with a real-life example from one of the most influential projects surrounding human DNA there is. Science nerds, buckle up:
One real-life example of successful collaboration is the Human Genome Project. The Human Genome Project was an international collaboration that aimed to map and sequence the entire human genome, which is the complete set of DNA in a human being. The project involved thousands of researchers from around the world, including scientists from government agencies, universities, and private companies. By working together, they were able to complete the sequencing of the human genome ahead of schedule, with the final sequence announced in 2003.
The success of the project was due in large part to the collaborative efforts of the researchers involved. They shared data, developed new technologies and methods, and worked together to overcome the many technical and logistical challenges involved in sequencing such a large and complex genome. Because of successful collaboration of all parties involved, The Human Genome Project has had a major impact on our understanding of human genetics, leading to new discoveries and insights into the underlying causes of many diseases.
Collaboration and remote work
Enough science for today, let’s get back to the matter at hand. With remote work becoming more and more popular, the ways we collaborate have also drastically changed, both positively and negatively. Let’s look at some of the most significant changes:
- Increased flexibility: The way we collaborate has become more and more flexible. With remote work, many companies have employees from all kinds of countries and time zones. A flexible or asynchronous schedule becomes a bit of a no-brainer. On the one hand, this can make it easier to collaborate with team members who are in different time zones or have different work schedules. However, when colleagues work in completely different schedules, they may not have a chance to collaborate at all.
- Communication challenges: Yes, our favorite buzzword is back. Remote work has had a massive impact on the way we communicate, with in-person communication taking a backseat. This can lead to delays or misunderstandings, and may require the use of new communication tools and strategies.
- Reduced face-to-face interaction: Companies that do not have a lot of experience with remote work, may not use any video conferencing tools at all and reduce their face-to-face interaction completely. This is not only devastating for your company culture, but also immensely hinders collaboration. It becomes more challenging to build strong relationships and trust, which is so important for working together.
- More self-discipline: You have a hard time focusing while working from home? Then you have something in common with a large part of remote employees. Remote work requires a greater degree of self-discipline and self-motivation, as well as the ability to manage time effectively and prioritize tasks. Mastering these skills as an individual as well as a team are essential for keeping your collaborative work top-notch.
- Technology: No technology = no remote work. And definitely no collaboration! The immense mass of tools out there has had a massive impact on the quality of remote collaboration. However, the reliance on technology can also lead to technical difficulties, connectivity issues and other challenges.
Our favorite collaboration tools for business
Forget e-mails and MS Teams. There’s a whole world of tools out there that is waiting for you to discover! If you are new to remote teams management, we get that the sheer mass of tools can get overwhelming. Here are some of our personal favorites for business collaboration that we use on the daily:
- Slack: As we have established, internal communication is super important, and an integral part of the collaboration process. However, writing a lengthy e-mail every time you want to contact your colleagues is time-consuming and, let’s be real, boring. Here, Slack comes in to help you out. It is a messaging app that facilitates team communication and collaboration through channels, direct messages, and integrations with other tools. We use it to shoot each other quick messages, share updates or questions in specific channels, and to celebrate successes with the whole team.
- Asana: Struggling to keep on top of projects while working remotely? Asana can help you out. No matter if you work on a small task or a bis project with a cross-functional team, Asana is a project management tool that helps teams to track tasks, assign responsibilities, and set deadlines. Although we are not currently using this tool ourselves, it is a great starting point for companies that have a hard time making remote collaboration work for them.
- Trello: Another simple, yet super effective tool. Essentially, Trello helps you to create very sophisticated to-do lists. It’s a visual collaboration tool that uses boards, cards, and lists to help teams organize and prioritize tasks. It’s great for using as an individual for your own tasks, as well as organizing deadlines and responsibilities in a larger team or project group.
- Google Drive: Do you really want to get a PDF or word file going every time you share a text with someone else? Google Drive makes this so much easier. It’s a cloud-based storage and collaboration platform that allows teams to store, share, and edit documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in real time. We share almost everything on there. From important documents to our office shopping list. An absolute game changer.
- Gather.town: One of the tools we use probably the most, since it houses our virtual office. Gather.town helps you to build and customize virtual spaces, which is a super innovative way to hold meetings, events, talks, or conferences. Looks wise, it reminds us of a nostalgic Pokémon game, and gives us the ability to interact in real-time with each other, which made our collaboration skyrocket. It makes any other video conferencing tools, like Zoom or MS Teams, completely unnecessary and gives us the familiar office feeling, even when we are working from home.
- Notion: When working from home, there are usually a lot of documents, sheets and to-do lists on the go. Now, you don’t want important information to just fly around on your colleagues’ computers where they might get lost. Get yourself a tool like Notion, which makes it super easy to store important information. Everyone from your team can have access to the shared account and the information within it. The tool can also double as a project management app, since it allows you to create very structured to-do lists that you can easily cater to your needs.
- Miro: This is THE tool for those who like to really visualize the tasks at hand (e.g. a collaborative mind map). It is an online whiteboard that allows you to work on ideas or projects, either as an individual or a team. Additionally, it is one of the top visual collaboration tools out there. We personally use Miro every day in the form of our Daily Board, where each employee shares their to-do list of the day. It is an amazing tool for remote collaboration, especially if your team is full of creative thinkers that love to visualize their work.
These collaboration tools can help businesses to improve communication, increase productivity, and streamline workflow by providing a centralized platform for teams to work together on projects and tasks.
You tried Gather.town already, but didn’t really get on with it? Or you LOVE it like us, but the current cost is too high for your team? Over on our blog, we shared some interesting alternatives to Gatehr.town that you should consider checking out.
The future of collaboration
So, as you see, collaboration has undergone some massive changes over the past few years alone. Begs the question: How will the way we collaborate change in the future? Of course, this is a massive guessing game, but let’s speculate for a second:
AI: Collaboration in the future is likely to become even more integrated with technology, with the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to play a significant role in the way teams collaborate. One way that AI may influence collaboration is by automating certain tasks, such as scheduling meetings or sending reminders, allowing team members to focus on more high-level work. AI may also help to improve communication by analyzing data on team interactions and providing insights on how to improve collaboration. The possibilities of virtual and augmented reality could change our collaboration spaces completely.
Collaborative robots and drones: Hello, the future is calling! As robots and drones become more advanced and affordable, they will be increasingly used to collaborate with humans in a wide range of industries. This will enable teams to perform tasks more efficiently and safely, and will open up new possibilities for collaboration. However, don’t be too scared (or excited) for robots to take over the world completely. It’s probably going to be more like having a team of super-powered assistants to help with the boring stuff, so you can focus on the fun parts!
Overall, collaboration in the future is likely to be heavily influenced by technology, as it already is, to be fair. But it will be important for organizations to carefully consider the benefits and potential risks of implementing these new tools and approaches. Ultimately, successful collaboration in the future will continue to depend on strong communication, mutual trust, and a shared sense of purpose among team members.
So what have we learned? Collaboration among employees is the art of working together towards a common goal, and it’s a vital skill that everyone in your team should develop. It allows teams to achieve more than they could alone, solve problems faster, and come up with better ideas. Thanks to technology, collaboration has become easier and more efficient than ever before, and we can expect it to become even more diverse, inclusive, and technology-enabled in the future. With the right mindset, skills, and tools, collaboration can be the key to unlocking success and making a positive impact on the world around us. The future is collaboration!
VIDEO: The power of collaboration
What promotes collaboration in the workplace?
Improving collaboration is an ongoing process that never really ends. However, having the following skills is a great starting point for successful collaboration at work: Active listening, skill and knowledge sharing, good communication, healthy trust and respectful coworking.
What hinders effective collaboration?
The most fitting word here is probably clarity. Employees need clearly defined roles, responsibilities, goals and timelines to collaborate successfully and effectively. Make sure that tasks and responsibilities are not vague concepts, but understood by everyone involved.
How does collaboration help business?
You won’t get far in your business ventures if you and your team cannot collaborate. It is the basis of your success and productivity, and essential for all aspects of your company. Try out team development solutions to make your collaboration a success.