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What is the value of collaboration?

February 16, 2011 - 29 Comments

In my last blog, we explored the definition of collaboration.  I appreciate all of the interesting comments and suggestions. Keep them coming!

In this blog, I’d like to address my second observation about collaboration, and that is what’s its value?  And, where should you focus?

When I speak to audiences, I sometimes ask, “Who thinks collaboration is a good thing to do?”   Almost everyone raises their hand. But when I ask WHY should they do it, the answer is not as clear.  The fact that the definition of collaboration can have so many meanings defining the value of collaboration really becomes complex. Since it means different things to different people so does determining the value proposition.

In its simplest form, the only reason any one of us should collaborate in any endeavor inside or outside our companies is to PRODUCE GREAT RESULTS!   Yes, we are working together toward common goals or being an active member of a community with common interests, but in the end, the reason you should collaborate is all about producing results.

Now let’s address the second question. If you had a magic wand that could deliver effective collaboration across your enterprise, where would you focus? What areas would you want to collaborate most to produce the greatest results?

I would point the magic wand (I have to stop watching Harry Potter movies with my daughter) in these areas:

1.    The customer – Focus on things to improve customer service and satisfaction. Things like global account management and cross-selling of products and services increase revenues and sales. By the way, effective collaboration can also uncover existing problems and define new opportunities.

2.    Efficiency – (saving time/ money / decisions / process).  A focus on improving the efficiency across your company can yield big results.  Collaboration + Technology + Process = huge $$$$ savings.  The focus on efficiency can cut across all functions to reduce time and increase effectiveness.  The key is to focus on strategic initiatives that are critical to the company.  In the case of Cisco, reducing the time it takes to complete acquisitions has significant value, is strategic to our business and provides us with a competitive advantage.  Improving efficiency in our manufacturing process with our partners requires strong collaboration and provides huge results in reducing costs, manufacturing time, raw materials and can improve quality.

3.    Innovation – This can benefit greatly by effective collaboration. Cross business unit collaboration, such as between engineering and marketing, can generate product innovations by combining existing assets to produce new products. The key is to leverage the assets of the entire company by knowing what expertise exists, where it’s located, and creating a culture that rewards this cross collaboration.  A Proctor and Gamble product called White Strips is a collaborative effort between the bleach, toothpaste and the R&D division and has turned into a billion dollar plus business.

I believe collaboration will be a key characteristic of tomorrow’s successful companies.  Those that leverage the technology, implement company-wide processes and governance, and build a culture of collaboration will benefit by delivering great results.  Collaboration is no longer an option or a choice, it’s a matter of survival!  I’ll leave you with a quote from Wikinomics author Don Tapscott:  “Collaborate or perish”!

As always, I’d appreciate your views and comments.  Keep an eye out for my next blog on how to do effective collaboration.

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  1. good article! very helpful

  2. I Like!

  3. This is so nice and cool post - I have to recommend this article to my friends - I like your style of writing!

  4. Thats true, collaboration is the key to improve a business. It is just easier to work in group, it makes things easier. Great ideas are generated when people with all different believes and ideas come together.

  5. Collaboration will take us to the next level of productivity. And as you say, the purpose is to get RESULTS. However, I've seen very little to support what collaboration is producing in restuls. One of the few that I came across is from McKinsey. Once we get more data about the results, you'll see more adoption.

    • Thanks for sharing your findings and the example on collaboration. I think there are a lot of great examples on collaboration. Our Iprize innovation contest is a good example of crowdsourcing innovation. The goldcorp challenge described in Don Tapscott's book Wikinomics is also a great example. I think this is a great topic to drill into. I ask all of you out there to send in your examples and I'll aggregate them.

  6. One of the best thinkers on this space is John Hagel and his colleague John Seely Brown, both of whom cut their teeth in PARC with Xerox. Their latest book, "The Power of Pull" is a very direct and accessible explanation of why collaboration is not just 'good' and 'nice to have' but now becoming the only way for organisations, individuals, countries to survive and prosper in the conditions we now face - open, connected, complex and contingent. They also talk about some of the this great quote, for example..."We have to be willing to risk looking like we don’t know the answer or maybe even the question, We’ve got to wean ourselves from overdependence on the expertise we’ve laboured to hard to accumulate." Scary stuff and very emotionally confronting.

  7. I agree, collaboration is the key.. :)

  8. I am so happy that you are taking the issue of collaboration seriously. When collaboration works, differing minds and approaches focused upon the same question, surprisingly wonderful and unique solutions can arise. Also, when everyone feels they have had a say in a decision, decisons are more likely to be carried out. So, the extra time needed to reach a collaborative solution is paid back by quality of the decision and motivation/energy to actually carry it out.

  9. Call me corny but to me, the human species has always been a social, collaborative one. I think that's why we're at our best when working in concert with others.

  10. i think we are just beginning to tap into this potential, Recently i started using foursquare and it really brings what you are saying home.

  11. I really enjoyed this article. Great blog. Collaboration is the path to success, even in politics! Good stuff.

  12. Carlos: Any thoughts on the barriers to collaboration? Some organizations prevent open access to all to the means to collaborate. Other groups preserve power by hording knowledge and influence. Assuming there is a will to collaborate, can we assume all have the capacity to throw the switch and move from a command and control to background to a collaborative one?

    • Ian, i'll be getting to this in an upcoming blog. Look forward to your comments.

  13. good article! very helpful and informative

  14. its really good thing, wt u say collaboration is main thing , that's mainly use every body , and also efficiency is much more impotent , nice article, give some other suggestions, thank you, Local information

  15. thanks for the post it is very helpful.

  16. Bad I've spelled my name correctly!!

  17. They say "collaboration is an unnatural act between non-consenting adults"! A bit flippant I know but a grain of truth. The point about authentic opposed to idea tha collaboration happens when I put more than 2 people on the 'cc' line of an that is demands a certain absence of ego that individuals and organisational s fid hard. But Carlos has pointed out so well what can be done when you approach collaboratio properly. And especially at a to e when we are learning the value of more open and connected models of innovation, the trick of real collaboration in the ring place at the right time is becoming a critical organizational and personal capability. But let's not forget that, to do it well makes considerable personal and al ost emotional demands on the way we work and how we define our sense of personal achievement and success. As always, it's the human dimension that is often the toughest part of the equation...

    • great point Martin, even if you spelled your name incorrectly. :)

  18. I agree, collaboration is the key to a better business. When people work things together, things become so much easier. Amazing idea's are formed when people with different knowledge, backgrounds and specialties work together.

  19. Very useful and informative blog post concerning What is the value of collaboration. I have bookmarked your blog for future posts.

  20. Wow! Wonderful Article..Thanks for sharing

  21. Keep the GOLD coming. I was just surfing and found this blogs too informative and updated.

  22. Nice post! Collaboration is very successful because if the company needs extra investment they can collaborate with other companies. Also you mentioned "innovation", collaboration might bring something new and effective.

  23. Collaboration has been very powerful ever since. From simple to huge undertakings if we aim to come up with a good if not the best result, we definitely need to collaborate with a group aimed at a common goal. Collaboration nowadays has been enhanced tremendously with the presence of the different electronic media available at hand.

  24. Great point, i think we are just beginning to tap into this potential, Recently i started using foursquare and it really brings what you are saying home. The fact that you can potentially link , who you are , with how, what are you doing in the right moment can have very interesting power to change things , everything in near real time or in some cases real time.