Collaboration sits at the very core of innovation in our digitally interconnected world. Whether its teams toiling away on a major project from various parts of the world , or you are a team lead representing one of two multinational corporations from different countries in a major business venture, fostering intelligent and strategic collaboration is fundamental to growth and development. One obvious reason why ‘collaboration is the new competition’ is because it pools together the best resources, ideas, people, etc through precise coordination and co-creation to create new powerful synergies. Why start from scratch when there is a potential partner out there you can leverage on and vice versa.

The great thing about collaboration is that there is no one size fits all approach to collaboration. The only major requirement  is that collaboration must be SMART i.e (STRATEGIC, MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL, ADD VALUE, RESPONSIVE and have clear TARGETS). As far as a desirable format goes, there are many formats from B2B collaborations, B2C, C2C and so on. The great thing is almost all sectors and industries can benefit immensely from collaboration as a way to increase outreach, add value to the end users &  consumers, as well as expand the vision and mission. From the Luxury sector to Power to Renewable Energy, Education, Professional Services and more, you can find many examples of successful collaboration and some of these are; Rhianna and LVMH to create Fenty Beauty, Microsoft and Toyota Motors, H & M and Balmain,Coca-Cola and Eco-Plastics, Ivy League Universities and Coursera and the list goes on.

In this article we shall explore ten effective methods to cultivate smart collaboration that not only brings multiple resources closer but also drives intelligent and strategic outcomes.

1. Define Clear Objectives

The bedrock of any successful collaboration rests upon setting a clear set of objectives. Beginning with the end in mind is really important and is a great way to avoid running into conflict. Define the purpose, goals, and desired outcomes and delineate responsibility upfront. This ensures that all team members are aligned and working towards a common vision, minimising the chances of misunderstandings and misalignments.

Let us take this example: consider various global healthcare companies embarking upon a project to develop a vaccine for a new virus within 18 months. Clearly communicating this objective to all teams involved ensures everyone understands the shared goal and timeline.

2. Cultivate a Culture of Open Communication

Encourage open and transparent communication within your team. Foster an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing ideas, opinions, and feedback. This creates a collaborative atmosphere where everyone’s input is valued, leading to more informed decision-making.

For example,  a green energy company holds weekly “town hall” meetings where employees can ask questions, share feedback, and voice concerns. This open communication creates a sense of transparency and trust, fostering collaboration.

3. Leverage Technology, Encourage Shared Innovation

Embrace collaborative tools and technology to streamline communication and project management. Platforms such as Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Asana facilitate real-time collaboration, making it easier for teams to share information, track progress, and stay connected, regardless of geographical locations.

An award winning national construction company, for example, partners with a leading software company to develop a bespoke project management software programme specifically with the construction industry in mind  to assign tasks, track progress, and  increase accountability. Eventually the tool becomes so successful that both organisations agree to market the tool to other companies in the construction sector. Don’t forget to have legal teams review the approach on how intellectual property is shared and monetised.

4. Establish Clear Roles and Responsibilities

Clearly define and delineate the roles and responsibilities of each team member, individual, organisation, etc. When every participant is clear about their specific contributions and understands how they fit into the larger picture, collaboration becomes more efficient and manages expectations leading to more successful outcomes.  You can work with the technical teams and legal to achieve this. This clarity minimises redundancy and prevents conflicts over tasks and responsibilities.

5. Promotes Multi-Disciplinary Cross-Functional Teams

Break down silos within your organisation by promoting internal collaboration and form cross-functional teams. The beauty of collaboration is by leveraging on the strengths and capacity of the collective. 

Cross-functional collaboration fosters a holistic approach to dealing with challenges and encourages a culture of learning and adaptability.

Diversity plays a major role in collaboration, and not where skills and expertise is concerned but by gender, ethnicity, cultural background and so on. Studies have shown that Diversity drives productivity and efficiency up. Diverse collaboration greatly enhances creativity and problem-solving capabilities in the long run.

Diversity can also have a positive impact on business performance in a multitude of ways, from greater innovation and skill sharing to increased productivity and higher revenues. Forbes reveals that diverse teams deliver 60% better results and make better decisions in 87% of cases – FDM Group UK

For instance, if a well respected marketing company collaborates with engineers, designers, and data analysts to develop a new product campaign, this cross-functional collaboration brings together diverse perspectives and expertise, leading to more innovative and effective solutions.

Smart Collaboration: A Driving Force for Success and Innovation
Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

6. Encourages Continuous Learning

Create a culture in your collaboration that values continuous learning and skill development. Encourage the collaborative team members to share their knowledge and experiences. This not only enriches the team’s collective intelligence but also empowers individuals to take on new challenges and contribute more effectively to collaborative efforts.

7. Celebrate Successes and Learn from Failures

Acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of the team, no matter how small. Equally important is learning from failures. Encourage a culture where mistakes are viewed as opportunities for growth and improvement. Analysing failures collectively helps teams refine their strategies and enhances future collaboration.

8. Collaboration drives revenue 

Smart collaboration can be a catalyst for revenue growth, thanks to combined innovation and efficiency of partners. The Tech industry has leveraged massively on collaboration take for instance Apple through strategic partnerships such as integrating third party apps into its ecosystem resulted in increased app sales and revenue streams, Cross industry collaboration between Nike and Apple on fitness tracking saw the sale of the apple watch soar and generally impacted the fitness tech industry positively.These are great examples of how combining expertise can drive product sales and revenue growth. Smart collaboration amplifies capabilities, expands market reach and boosts financial performance.

9. Promotes a Results-Oriented Mindset

Shift the focus from individual contributions to overall team results. Encourage a mindset where success is measured by collective achievements rather than individual accomplishments. This promotes collaboration and motivates team members to work cohesively towards shared goals.

For example, if a manager shifts the focus from individual performance metrics to team-wide outcomes, it will encourage collaboration and shared responsibility for goals to be achieved.

10. Regularly Evaluate and Adjust Strategies

Collaboration is an evolving process. Regularly assess the effectiveness of your collaborative strategies and be willing to make adjustments. Solicit feedback from team members and be proactive in addressing challenges. Continuous improvement is key to fostering long-term, intelligent collaboration. 

Example: A project team holds regular retrospective meetings to review their collaboration process and identify areas for improvement. They make adjustments to their communication and task management strategies based on feedback.