Collaboration is a buzzword in today’s business, and for good reason. It used to be possible to know “everything” in a given field. Today, that’s no longer realistic. With the explosive growth in knowledge and information, no one can have all the expertise that might help them do their job, even within a specialized niche. In fact, 10 years ago the Harvard Business Review reported that teamwork “is frequently the only way to assemble the knowledge and breadth required to pull off many of the complex tasks businesses face today.”
Things have not become simpler in the decade since. Now, more than ever, optimal success in business requires collaboration. The trend toward consolidation of specialized businesses—as has happened within technology companies, including Litera Microsystems—reflects this fact.
Still, not everyone is a fan of collaboration. You may have bad memories of school or work projects where you were put on a team of underperformers; you did all the work and someone else got to take your share of the credit. Or you may just be an introvert or someone who’s so easily distracted by other people’s issues that you find it difficult to work in teams. Is there hope for you in today’s collaborative business environment?
Of course! It’s true that there are pitfalls to collaborating, but the benefits are real. The key is to establish clear limits ahead of time and to maintain those boundaries. Here are some of the main benefits to collaborating—and the keys to realizing their benefits without stumbling on their pitfalls.
1. Collaboration enhances creativity.
A thoughtfully composed diverse team with good communication can almost effortlessly—and enjoyably—brainstorm its way to better solutions and more innovative ideas than any member would create alone. Not only do successful collaborative teams enjoy the creative energy that they can spark, but integrating different perspectives creates products and services that work for more clients.
But watch out for collaboration for collaboration’s sake. Assembling teams that are too large or too dispersed can actually impede creativity and communication. Employees should also be sure to create time to engage in their own individual deep work. All-day meetings and constant “team check-ins” are neither productive nor efficient.
2. Collaboration allows teams to share—and increase—their knowledge.
In a world where no one can know everything, sharing knowledge with team members allows everyone to know a bit more about everything than they otherwise might. Working with specialists also brings greater knowledge to the resulting products and services—perhaps the main reason for the rise of collaboration as an approach.
But watch out for excessive drains on the time and energy of your highest performers. Another study from the Harvard Business Review found that “In most cases, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees.” People working on teams must have permission to say no to requests for their time or at least to respond efficiently, perhaps by directing the asker to existing resources.
3. Collaboration saves time and money.
In both the law and in pharmaceutical development, filing first can be the key to success. Fortunately, teamwork can save time, both because work is distributed between multiple team members and because work can be assigned to the most capable team members. This not only saves money but also allows projects to be finished more quickly—as long as each participant’s time is managed well.
But watch out for inefficient communication between team members and undefined roles or unclear assignments. While collaboration can save time, it can also waste time if employees have to attend countless meetings and wait for team decisions. Make sure your collaborations are actually adding value!
Here at Litera Microsystems, we’re looking forward to increased collaboration through our recent partnerships between Microsystems and XRef, Litéra, and The Sackett Group. The overall trend toward consolidation in the tech industry reflects these benefits of collaboration—and we can’t wait to see where it takes us!