A Wall Street journal article titled ‘Together We Innovate’ aptly details how effective collaboration – regardless of employee hierarchy – is paramount to generating new ideas. With innovation ranking high on every organization’s priority list, business leaders are looking for ways to leverage collaboration to drive growth and success. According to a Mckinsey report, improved collaboration and communication could raise the productivity of workers by 20-25%. This untapped productivity payoff can potentially contribute to billions in business value across industries.

So how do you boost business performance through collaboration? Well, that’s the tricky part. The answer lies in identifying patterns. Since organizations differ in their goals, technologies, and strategies, a one size fits all approach to collaboration does not work. However, look closely and you will be able to identify some common factors, scenarios, and habits that help create successful collaborative organizations.

Here are 5 best practices to leverage collaboration as a driving force to achieve competitive advantage and business success:

    • Plug your resource/skill gaps through collaboration: As workforces become increasingly mobile, you can use collaborative technologies to tap into internal, external, or freelance resources and scale up your services to meet sudden or seasonal spikes in demand. Salesforce.com leverages LiveOps’ “cloud contact center” to deliver customer support services across the globe.The model involves engaging contract employees/freelancers who work from home with flexible hours, thereby enabling the company to cover multiple time zones. The platform also includes a system to track performance and Salesforce does a good job of rewarding high performers with recognition and better salary.
    • More the thinkers, higher the creativity quotient: When it comes to creativity, the idea of the ‘lone genius’ typically falls short. The greater the number of contributors, the more diversified and unique the pool of creative generated. Nielsen research shows that teams comprising six or more people generate significantly higher number of creative concepts than smaller teams. Needless to say, a wider pool of creative concepts offers a higher chance of a successful idea materializing.
    • Start at the top and funnel down: Adoption of collaborative tools and technologies must start with the organization’s top management. This helps stimulate change and sets an example for the rest of the employees to follow. The extent of collaboration is largely based on a level of commitment managers bring to such initiatives. Unless they change, evolve, and collaborate, other employees are unlikely to do the same. ZDNet, a global IT trends analysis firm points out that ‘teamwork is best inspired by leaders who facilitate collaboration’. While leadership styles differ among individuals, it is important for organizations to identify those who have a successful track record of thriving in and supporting collaborative environments.
    • Integrate Collaboration into workflows: Viewing collaboration as a standalone initiative is a mistake that many organizations make. To get your employees to buy-in to your collaboration initiatives, integrate the same into their way of working. TELUS – a Canada based telecommunications company uses the right approach to collaboration. All of their technologies can be accessed via a central navigation bar, thereby opening the door for all employees to connect and engage. They also hold collaboration scavenger hunts for new employees to help them acquaint themselves with the company’s culture.
    • Encourage open dialogue to foster collaboration: Transparent communication lays the foundation for effective collaboration, with the latter translating into multiple benefits besides monetary for organizations. Twitter is a benchmark example of this. The online platform that enables open dialogue among millions across the world, follows the same approach with its employees.Twitter employees are encouraged to voice their opinion fearlessly and the company values the feedback. As a result, it ranks among the world’s top 25 companies with a great collaborative culture. It effectively uses this fact to attract great talent at all levels, instead of hefty salary packages.

The future of collaboration is social

The buck doesn’t stop with building a great collaborative organizational culture and being applauded for it. Collaboration thrives on continuous evolution. The future of collaboration is expected to be dominated by social technologies with 72% of companies across the world already using them in one way or the other. So how are you tapping into your organization’s ‘collaboration quotient’ to drive success?