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Business Collaboration - Top 5 Myths

June 03, 2014

Business Collaboration - Top 5 MythsBusiness collaboration takes commitment and perseverance to get past all the misconceptions and assumptions. Here are five myths I believe that as leaders, we need to confront head-on so we can make forward progress.

Myth #1: All you need [favorite software/social media tool here]

The thinking goes somewhat like this: “Give employees access to [insert favorite tool here] and they’ll collaborate like crazy. After all, they live on this stuff anyway, so why not take advantage of it?” How will you measure employee productivity? How do you connect the dots between their use of social media (or any other software for that matter) and the desired results from collaboration? Collaboration is more than socializing … it needs a shared goal or purpose and above all —a leadership team that lives, eats, and breathes collaboration — if there’s to be any kind of result that moves our businesses in the desired direction.

Myth #2: Collaboration is easy because it happens naturally

Of all the myths, this is the most dangerous. Collaboration happens slowly until trust and respect have been earned among all the participants. Until then, and even after, expect foot-dragging, hidden as well as in-your-face conflict, and placating statements such as “of course we’re collaborating” — with no positive gains. Fruitful collaboration takes a concerted effort on everyone’s part. Especially because collaboration is different than teamwork.

Myth #3: Collaboration is merely approved company socializing

Business is about people creating relationships that are long-term [hopefully] and mutually beneficial. That doesn’t happen in a vacuum one employee at a time. What used to happen at the watercooler, office cafeteria, or Friday afternoon beer bust, happens more often and faster online today. Don’t discount the human bonds that form, they help smooth the way for business to take place. Our challenge as leaders is to guide those interactions and activities so they’re productive, not just fun.

Myth# 4: Collaboration is a good thing

It’s become such a buzzword that we automatically assume collaboration is always the preferred choice. Well, that’s not necessarily true. There’s a right time and place for collaboration — will collaboration create value in this situation, or take it away? Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense for a whole host of smart reasons. And isn’t that the essence of good collaboration — knowing when and when not to collaborate?

Myth #5: Collaboration = great ideas and better answers

Many times. Not always. The old adage “two heads are better than one” and research suggest that multiple minds and the diversity of experience often yields much better answers than if we work alone. But there’s a limit to the effectiveness. Especially if an organization becomes mired in “collaboration is the only way.” You see, more often than not, "over" collaboration breeds groupthink or expert-think. And they are the very antithesis of innovation. Creativity and innovation is stimulated by intense interactions, but ultimately requires private reflection. Quiet, alone time, reflection. Because ideas need time to percolate and creativity can’t be rushed. Creativity comes from getting into a flow of thoughts, ideas, and actions. And while you can get there in a group, most innovators are independent thinkers who need the space and freedom in which to coalesce divergent trains of thought.