Aug 7, 2023 5 min read

More than a Buzzword: The Power of Collaboration

Collaboration is an overused and underutilized verb. Collaboration sometimes feels like one of our grandma’s recipes which had a secret sauce and what was the secret?! “Only she knew it”.

In today’s age and time, however there is no secret sauce in collaborating. And if we believe there is one, we probably are collaborating at a suboptimal level.

SMEs are getting deeper in their verticals and jargon like “super specialization”, “specifics”, and “geographical distance and time difference” keep collaboration at bay.

Collaboration when broken down to its basic form means “coming together to build”. The “building” needs to be so robust, that its builders should know each of its facades thoroughly. (Remember the Professor from Money Heist)

Why collaborate?

Imagine you are creating a world where you are growing your own supplies - be it for food, electricity, water, or health care, backed by the latest technologies. You are your best friend, mentor, gatekeeper, and guide.

Well, the latter does sound alarming. There is a reason we need external stimuli and a sounding board.

Getting people involved in decision-making and creation improves outcomes. The best teams are not built by champions, they are made of complementary skills of their team members. Teams can have differences throughout the ideation stage, but once the specs are decided they all have the same goalpost.

Eg: Take a moment, and think back to a time when you were in an ideating phase, be it product development, feature update, or getting a new platform for better people engagement. I can think of so many times, where the conversations started from different perspectives within the team, with some members giving in to authority while some reasoning along with the team. In fact, the person or team that pushes you the most brings out the best in you. And finally, after days and weeks of endless discussion, coming to an outcome. During this process, there are a lot of signals which we end up sending, and un/knowingly team members start understanding our intrinsic and extrinsic motivations (desires). We give out cues in ways of explaining with examples in music, technology, culture, or sports. And we start forming patterns. Understanding these cues develop lasting bonds and deeper trust within teams.

Benefits of collaborating

I remember a few years back I was writing comic strips during covid. I was writing the content sitting in India and the creatives and color were done by people based in Spain and Argentina respectively.

Great work can be done from anywhere across the world, provided there is a desire to create a beautiful outcome within your knowledge and capacity.

Having said this, I do realize that the attention span reduces on any technological devices, and face-to-face (F2F) meetings still hold dear to us for a reason.

F2F helps with undivided focus and also helps in getting a better perspective, brainstorming, better flow in creativity, and cohesive outcomes.

I have been working with my team across geographies for several years. However, when I recently met my Singapore team in person, and spent time with them, due to the increased in-person connection, I felt closer to them.

Challenges in Collaborating

Collaboration has a lot of nuances to it.

  • Need to trust each other
  • Understand the pace other people like to work
  • Constant communication

In today’s time where fresh graduates and even several leaders would have joined in a workplace during covid, many would have never even met their team members. Everything moved online and now getting back to the office is a behavioral change which is still hard for a few.

Whereas freelancers and consultants who have been on their own, found this time comforting, as they had worked from home for a relatively longer period.

I still remember the long-drawn meetings when we were ideating on drivers of performance or indicators of competencies or deciding on next year’s goals. Those meetings would go on for weeks. Tempers running high of a few in the meeting rooms and endless whiteboarding. In the end, we always got our solution, but the larger outcome was making a few friends. These friends stayed with us long after.

Why is collaboration crucial?

  • If you want to go farther team works better In the words of Kipchoge - “100% of me is nothing compared to 1% of the whole team.” This was when Eluid Kipchoge was preparing to break the 2-hour marathon mark. While running is an individual sport the same as achieving business goals for individuals, teams have a huge impact on us. The way we share our perspectives, casually or on a professional level.
  • Brings perspective Collaboration helps in reducing our blind spot by bringing perspective to our thought process, approach, and execution. It helps in reducing the load of one person doing everything by letting team members focus on their strengths. Eg: Take a moment and think of the person you respect the most. Furthermore, take a moment when you were truly happy achieving something at work and then remember the people who helped you reach there.

Collaboration is imperative. As children we read books to increase our cognitive senses, later educational institutes helped improve our skills and behaviors, through group projects, or playground shenanigans. Teams work horizontally, cutting age, experience, and background biases.