The two sides of successful collaboration

Organizations are not static beings – the Age of the Internet has established and furthered that truth beyond reasonable doubt. In the 21st century, companies expand laterally as well as vertically, they shift shapes, they tap into markets and regions that would have been out of reach only a few years ago. All of that change requires the employees – the people responsible in large part for driving company success – to collaborate in new and challenging ways.

Luckily, today’s employees can handle that kind of collaboration – and it’s made easier when the organization in question recognizes the kinds of difficulties that may arise and addresses them proactively. Collaboration works best when it involves highly different groups working through a problem, and in today’s offices, those differences manifest themselves in two ways:

The setting for a conference no longer has to be in one physical place.The setting for a conference no longer has to be in one physical place.

1. Collaboration across borders
No longer is teamwork limited to the people on your team, in your office or sitting a few desks down from you. Now, a team can take on members from across the globe, as remote meetings, VoIP and immediate transactions provide better channels for communication.

But for that type of collaboration to succeed requires employers to have the technology to allow such meetings to take place. More obviously, it also requires organizations to have a team overseas, a sister office in another country, or a partnership abroad with which they can communicate. But doing so takes extra managerial prowess, according to London Business School professor Lynda Gratton.

“Now, a team can take on members from across the globe.”

“The project manager needs to be a lot stronger to realize where the task is going, who needs to be brought into the conversation, and what the priorities are,”¬†Gratton told The Atlantic. “When [networked] teams fall apart, it’s usually because there wasn’t anyone keeping up the momentum.”

However, Gratton also recognized the benefits of successful international collaboration: “You get a higher metabolism, more [stakeholder] engagement, better innovation, more loyalty, and you break down the silos that exist.”

2. Collaboration across mindsets
Some organizations make the mistake of hiring new employees based on their fit – or, more specifically, hiring those who best match the personalities of the individuals already working there. But that strategy fails to consider folks who think outside the box and can bring use their unique style of thinking to benefit the company.

As Harvard Business Review explained, the best companies in this day and age are the ones that outthink the competition by employing a wide array of mindsets. When people on opposite ends of the thinking spectrum can successfully collaborate, the organization reaches new heights.

“By knowing how other members of your team and organization think – and by others knowing how you think,” Mark Bonchek and Elisa Steele wrote in the Review, “everyone can be more energized, more engaged, more creative, and more productive.”

The source recommended employees identify how they think and use that to build more effective team roles. For example, if one person is a big-picture idea-creator, it would help to balance that with a detail- and process-oriented partner. Teams can use individuals of different mindsets to play to each others’ strengths and mitigate weaknesses.