Archive for the ‘Pedagogy’ Category

Collaboration is a contemporary catchphrase in an increasingly connected and innovation-seeking environment. The concept itself, however, is as dated as the history of humankind. From the earliest of times, communities have collaborated in their hunt and food gathering, and in their search for resources. Many great battles and victories would have failed without the collaborative efforts of team members across rank and file. Great paradigms of thought emerged beyond the walls of Athens as philosophers exchanged their ideas and arguments which later became the bedrock of Western thought and civilisation. The Enlightenment period could not have thrived without the interchanges between scientists, technologists, philosophers and politicians of the time.

Collaboration is important in the animal world, in the hunt of a pride of lionesses stalking a herd. Ants and bees collaborate, instinctively, to ensure the regeneration, growth and protection of their species. Management thinking today has learnt much from the lessons that these tiny yet sentient teachers of nature.

Today, in a hyper-connected world, collaboraton occurs formally and informally; consciously and unconsciously. Collaboration is no longer an option, and particularly for the workplace. It is possible to say that the most successful organisations covet workplace collaboration in a very competitive environment to develop strategies for survival, growth and innovation. To hinder it, is to limit the organisation’s potential to adapt in an uncertain and ever-changing marketplace.

Collaboration is not cooperation. In the past, with highly centralised leadership and decision-making authority, workers were expected to cooperate and comply with decisions made at the top of an organisational hierarchy. In today’s environment, organisations that fail to consider collaboration find themselves failing in a race with with other innovative, competitive organisations that tap their employees’ diverse ideas, opinions, talents and skills. They fail to compete, and increasingly so, in attracting and retaining top talent.Collaboration involves setting aside one’s position of power in the organisational hierarchy and instead establish partnership with team members driven towards a shared vision, goals and values.

Collaboration is to enfranchise the individual worker with a sense of empowerment and voice in how work can be managed in the workplace. Assertiveness is achieved through a focus on goals and values that an organisation espouses and effective positive communication, as opposed to a leader’s position in the management hierarchy. Likewise, peers need to recognise their equal position in collaboration, and that their peers’ opinions are to be valued as much their own. It is also worth noting that not all staff may be sold on the concept of collaboration.

Some employees may hold out on ideas that they may use to seek merit for themselves. Introverted employees may feel intimidated and remain passive, yet eager to learn and adopt. Yet others may remain cynical; due credit is not given, or shared. It is important for the organisation to recognise and reward collaborative efforts.

Learning organisations must be willing to be transparent and share information that lead to effective collaboration, discussions and decision-making. The organisation has to create a culture of openness and trust to foster a conducive environment and corporate culture for collaboration. Conflict is resolved through effective negotiation to achieve a positive compromise and commitment, one that values organisation’s goals and values while affirming collaborators’ perspectives. There is more for the organisation to gain when an employee feels validated, valued and consulted.

When exercised well, collaboration enhances employee satisfaction, retention, productivity and effectiveness. Employees feel their ideas and in turn, their presence in the organisation valued and validated. Great collaborative workplaces are able to harness the best potential of their staff and develop them further, and encourage leadership, ownership and a shared sense of belonging in the organisation.

Great collaborators are great communicators. They do not wield ‘hard power’ but instead use ‘soft skills’ and their emotional intelligence in employing collaboration in the workplace. Employees with great collaborative skills are valuable assets, and are highly attractive in the labour market. Great workplace collaborators are great communicators and leaders, and they nurture the leadership potential of their team.