Workplace Collaboration: Mission-Critical or Just An Ideal?

By Guest Post

Collaboration is the latest buzzword in the business world. Businesses are deploying collaboration software, hiring culture managers, and employees are being told to “work together”. Collaboration sounds like a good thing, but, do you know what effective collaboration looks like? Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty details.

Ephraim Freed, self-proclaimed Internet Nerd, defines collaboration as two or more people (team), working together (processes) toward shared goals (purpose).

In the workplace, collaboration often takes place in the form of a team, a network or a community.

Teams include members that are focused on a joint goal or product, such as a presentation, completing a project, writing a report, or creating a new design or prototype.

Networks are systems of people who share information and services, usually around a common interest.

Communities are made up of members with shared interests who want to learn from each other by building and sharing knowledge, though they may not necessarily be focused on achieving a specific goal.

In each of type of collaboration, new ideas are generated and explored. However, collaboration is not a one-time event nor is it easy to implement without practice. Collaboration is a process that continues to get better over time. The more people collaborate, the more significant their working relationships become and teams are better able to share and discuss ideas, leading to more successful results.

Strategies for Successful Collaboration

According to this article in the Harvard Business Review, there’s a big difference between working together and truly collaborating with one another. Collaborative activity is the “secret sauce” that enables teams to come up with innovative new products or creative, buzz-worthy marketing campaigns.

Chris Jones, an IT Strategy & Change Management consultant, agrees with the idea of a “secret sauce” of ingredients for driving effective collaboration. Jones’ recipe includes engagement, authenticity, respect, positivity, and focus.

In the video below, Apple CEO Tim Cook describes his strategy for hiring people who will focus on collaboration and deliver the “magic” that happens when great minds come together.

What is the Best Way to Ensure that Your Team is Successfully Collaborating?

There are many tips and tricks for successful collaboration in the workplace. Sarah Maynard shared three tips for encouraging collaboration in the workplace: communicate, visualize and acknowledge. Communicate by sharing ideas with your coworkers, contacts, managers, and anyone who will listen. Use visuals to help communicate your ideas and clarify your ideas at the most simplistic level.

Visuals are a great facilitator to aid strategic thinking and planning. Acknowledge the work that your team is doing. Give credit when a team member has contributed a good idea, hard work, or even good constructive criticism. Collaborative relationships work best when team members feel appreciated and valued.

In this article, Dr. Carol Kinsey Gorman shares her 7 insights for collaboration in the workplace.  Gorman tells us that collaboration is a leadership issue which requires a change in the attitudes and behaviours of people throughout an organization. Collaboration is essential for organizational change whether the change involves creating new products, services, processes or a total reinvention of the organization.

Success dictates that the individuals impacted by change be involved in the change from the very beginning. Visioning is a team sport. Today’s most successful leaders guide their organizations not through command and control, but through a shared purpose and vision. These leaders adopt and communicate a vision of the future that impels people beyond the boundaries and limits of the past.

Structure is another element crucial to successful collaboration. When you have multiple people working on the same project, it can get easy to become lost in the details and lose sight of the goal. To that end, having a focused agenda and structuring your time effectively between team members is a must. Allow an environment where you can collaboratively make decisions, come up with new ideas and even heavily debate some topics without fear of retribution. If you have a supportive environment of respect and transparency in place, you will likely end up with a bunch of breakthroughs.

Diversity is crucial because it makes people consider perspectives and possibilities that might otherwise be ignored or lost. Group members who think alike or are trained in similar disciplines with similar bases of knowledge run the risk of becoming insular in their ideas. Instead of exploring alternatives, a confirmation bias takes over and members tend to reinforce one another’s predisposition.

Relationships are critical to the outcome of any collaborative effort. Collaboration is dependent upon well-developed personal relationships among participants. Trust is the glue that keeps it all together. Trust is the belief or confidence that one party has in the reliability, integrity and honesty of another party. Finally, don’t forget that your body language matters.


Dr. Nancy Rubin is strongly committed to educational excellence and creating a positive learning experience in the online environment. She has presented at many conferences, has been published in educational journals, and is the Associate Managing Editor for the Journal of Literacy and Technology, an online peer-reviewed international academic journal exploring the complex relationship between literacy and technology in educational, workplace, public, and individual spheres. You can connect with her online at

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Do you encourage your team to collaborate? What tips can you share to help others lead their teams to work better together? Post a comment with your ideas!

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