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How to overcome the Collaboration Conundrum


22 April 2016

Dr Nicola Millard

Blogs by author: Dr Nicola Millard, Head of Customer Insight and Futures, BT


Most organisations see collaboration as vital to achieve their goals, but new research shows how difficult it is to get people working together effectively.

It’s time to answer the big questions.

Just how important is collaboration to your organisation? Imagine you had to give a score out of ten, based on how vital collaboration is to achieving your goals. How would you score it? Do you need more collaboration? And can you even put a number on it?

The answer to this last question is ‘probably not’. You can work out exactly what other assets (like new IT apps or sales processes) bring to your organisation. In many cases, you can see the numbers on your balance sheet showing how effective they are. But it’s tough to sit down and really understand how important the simple act of people working together can be.

It’s also difficult to get a good idea of what you can do to improve the collaboration between your teams. As Dr Nicola Millard, our Head of Customer Insight and Futures, says in her latest research, the process of creating better collaboration forces you to overcome several conundrums. So that’s what we’re going to take an in-depth look at in this five-blog series.

Collaboration matters to every company.

We’ll start with the big question. Should you care about collaboration? The short answer is yes. Imagine if your people never talked to each other. How would you get anything done? There’s a reason you call yourself a ‘company’.

Collaboration is, undoubtedly, an important part of running your organisation. And your employees can see that. Nine out of ten people believe that collaboration becomes more important as technology changes the way we work .

But not to every individual.

As important as collaboration might be, you still want to avoid forcing it upon your people. While six in ten people feel they perform better in a team, a third of employees say they don’t need to collaborate to complete tasks .

This shows that people see collaboration as important — but not for every job. People work better together when they have a common cause. And it can be difficult to make that clear when different areas of your organisation end up working almost at odds with each other — even though they have the same shared goal of making your company more profitable.

Working together is about finding balance.

We often talk about collaboration in general terms that suggest every single person should be using it almost all of the time — and that’s clearly not the case.

Collaboration isn’t something you need to do for the sake of it. It might not be for everyone, all the time. But, for those who do need it, you have to focus on changing the way you lead your teams to encourage better opportunities for collaboration.

So keep an eye out for the next blog in the series, where we’ll take a look at exactly how to do that.

You can also find out more by downloading BT Head of Customer Insight and Futures, Nicola Millard’s latest research white paper, ‘The Collaboration Conundrum’.