The Collaboration Challenge

By Mark Vickers

It's no longer enough to be a team player. To succeed in today's highly dynamic and networked world, you've got to master the art of collaboration. And so does your organization as a whole.

Why collaboration? Because we live in an era when knowledge workers tend to specialize and so need one another's help to get things done in far-flung, complex organizations. A company that wants to improve customer satisfaction, for example, often requires collaboration among a variety of departments, from R&D to manufacturing to marketing to customer service. And the technological tools have become available to aid such collaboration.

Collaboration is particularly crucial to innovation. Teams of experts are usually required to build truly innovative products these days, and some of this expertise is likely to come from outside the organization. In fact, a recent IBM Global CEO Study found that over three-quarters of 750 CEOs said that collaboration is crucial to innovation, but only half 'believed their organizations were collaborating beyond a moderate level,' according to Melvin Weems (2006) of IBM Global Business Services. Similarly, a McKinsey study found that just a quarter of senior executives said their companies were 'effective' at 'sharing knowledge across boundaries,' according to The McKinsey Quarterly (Cross, Martin, & Weiss, 2006).

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