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Five Ways to Get Extraordinary Results from Collaboration

June 17, 2013 - 0 Comments

This is my fifth blog in a multi-part series.  In my first blog, I introduced insights from Cisco’s Collaboration Work Practice Study and how people value collaboration in the work environment.  In my second blog, I discussed the importance of building trust-based relationships and networks to make collaboration work for you.  In my third blog, I share how you can turn human interactions into business results.  In my fourth blog, I discussed patterns of collaborative behaviors and how to leverage them to better support collaborators. In today’s blog, I discuss how you can get extraordinary results.


Collaboration, at its core, is people interacting with people.  When building collaboration solutions, therefore, it’s essential to put people at the center.  As we learned in our study of employees in the Cisco Collaboration Work Practice Study, a blend of process, culture, workplace and technology solutions fosters the natural human interactions, rich dialogue and diverse perspectives at the heart of collaboration.

At Cisco, employees say that the outcomes achieved as a result of collaboration are “simply better.” So now is the time to not only reflect, but also to take action, as today’s technology era brings new dimensions to how we work together. We collaborate across time zones, cultures, personalities and behaviors. We collaborate using a multitude of devices, from smartphones and laptops to tablets and more. When organizations empower employees to engage and interact at a personal, human level, across this diverse landscape, they can achieve extraordinary results—such as faster and better decision-making, innovation, and growth.

Five Ways to Get Extraordinary Results from Collaboration

Cisco Collaboration Work Practice Study Executive Summary

Executive Summary

Based on the insights from our study, here are five ways you can take action today to facilitate more effective interaction and derive greater business value through collaboration.

1.    Build relationships and networks that lead to trust

Invest time in building relationships. Get to know your colleagues, customers and partners on a more personal level.  Provide tools and technologies that help people to not only connect, but also to learn more about each other.  Grow your personal network and leverage it for new opportunities, connecting people and finding expertise.  Spend time meeting face-to-face or leverage video and rich media technology to interact.

2.    Turn human interactions into results

Provide an open and participatory atmosphere where people are comfortable contributing and feel more engaged.  Teach people to become better collaborators.  Set expectations upfront, engage the right people, and choose technologies and forums that promote participation.  Bring the human element to the physical and virtual environment by creating a more casual and personal setting.

 3.    Evolve the culture for productive collaboration

Create a culture where collaboration is valued, modeled, and rewarded.  Balance personal and social incentives with tangible rewards to reinforce positive collaborative behaviors.  Encourage cultural sensitivity to work styles, holidays, and time zones among collaborators.  Identify and leverage key individuals in the organization who excel at modeling collaborative behaviors.  Develop collaborative leaders.

 4.    Balance decision-making and consensus building

Balance gathering input with the need to seek approvals because too much of either could translate into too many meetings, too much input, and may paralyze decision-making.  Be clear about accountability and roles upfront, and agree to a decision making approach and criteria early in the process.  Leverage communication and collaboration tools move efforts forward outside of meetings and in-between work sessions.

5.    Leverage patterns of collaboration

Provide tools that move activities through the lifecycle of collaboration and help people think through, plan, and execute collaborative efforts.  Create flexible physical and social environments that support the shifts in the collaboration needs of teams and individuals.

Now is the Time to Get Started

Cisco Collaboration Work Practice Study Full Report

Full Report

At Cisco we studied collaboration to improve collaboration.  Getting a “pulse” of the health of collaboration in your organization is a good first step to identify key focus areas.  A good place to start is to establish a baseline of how employees collaborate in your company, what successful collaboration looks like to them, and what barriers they face when trying to collaborate.  This baseline can be constructed from user research such as focus groups, ethnographic studies, and interactive workshops. I also recommend that you conduct an Organizational Network Analysis (ONA) to better understand people’s working relationships, information flows, and collaboration roles in your organization.

This blog concludes my series on how to create and support successful collaboration.  I’ve enjoyed sharing our insights about collaboration at Cisco.  Let’s keep the conversation going about how to drive business results and achieve extraordinary things through improved collaboration.

For additional reading on ONA, please try: We Can Learn Some Things About Collaboration from Duke’s Coach K.

What’s top of mind for you? How can improving collaboration help accelerate your business?


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