Convergence and collaboration in business and careers
We all know proverbs, sayings or quotations about working together. No man is an island, entire by itself (John Donne). None of us is as smart as all of us (Ken Blanchard). Many hands make light work (John Heywood). No one can whistle a symphony; it takes an orchestra to play it (H. E. Luccock). We must all hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately (Benjamin Franklin). Teamwork is great – it allows you to blame others (Ernie Cecilia and other crazy authors).
Convergence is the coming together of two or more separate entities towards a union or uniformity. I like technological convergence. Three decades ago, the telephone and the camera were two separate gadgets. Ten years ago, you surf the web on a computer, not on a TV. Telephones, TV, computers and gaming continue to converge and bring about innovations that delight consumers and make techie companies more profitable. Cellular phones are now computers, TV sets and gaming devices all rolled into one.
Convergence is key for business success. Convergence helps organizations evolve by synergizing with others to develop better quality, faster, cheaper business solutions. When Nokia was left behind in the smartphone race, it converged with Microsoft. The strategic alliance between mobile communications and computer technology has resulted in wonders for both companies. When AOL Time Warner added Huff Post, the amazing result is a revolutionary new model of journalism. It seems to me that the only convergence that will not happen is that between FedEx and UPS, or the resulting organization will be called the Fed-Ups.
Most CEOs understand the need for collaboration. But the tricky thing is the choice of “with whom” and “for which aspect of the business.” When you converge or collaborate, you increase the scale as you leverage your own and your co-collaborator’s resources — talent, finance, logistics, etc.
When you collaborate with others, your organization is forced to be a learning organization, and you optimize your people’s capacity beyond their comfort zone. In the end you stretch the boundaries of the people and the organization. As you work with differing cultures, you’ll experience “creative abrasion” that can help you leverage the energy created by the friction between different organizations and cultures.
Despite the benefits of convergence and collaboration, some CEOs hesitate to take the plunge. Organizations wanting to converge or collaborate often experience fears and doubts that, if not effectively managed or overcome, could negate the opportunities offered by the synergy. Leaders and associates often doubt a seamless transition, as most transitions are anything but seamless. There’s the fear of being eaten alive by the other organization. People will always have hang-ups, anxiety and fears. To organizations currently experiencing success, convergence and collaboration aren’t even an option. This can come from either sheer braggadocio or fear of keeping up – in short, F.O.K. U.
Futurist Jacob Morgan has observed the habits of collaborative organizations:
Lead by example. If leaders are perceived to be NOT supportive of collaboration, why should employees care?
Focus on individual benefit. Explain how convergence and collaboration will benefit the employees, not the organization.
Understand the “why” before the “how.” Focus on creating understanding about the purpose and strategy of collaboration before deciding on the partnership and platform.
Stay out of the way. Don’t be a control freak that monitors with a microscope how people are collaborating. Give people some leeway to implement your strategies and plans.
Listen to your employees. Most organizations have a sole, consuming desire to listen to customers. Listen to employees and let them participate in decisions affecting them.
Integrate collaboration into the work. Don’t make it difficult for employees to collaborate by using sophisticated, hard-to- understand protocols. Create a “front door” that will provide access to your collaboration platform. Avoid multiple, convoluted username, passwords, or login sites.
Create a supportive environment. Have team rewards, not individual rewards. Appoint a Chief Collaboration Officer. Engage employees in collaboration games often. Provide mobile desks so that employees can relocate when they need to work closely with other employees or departments.
Measure what matters. Focus only on metrics related to business results and how collaboration impacts the results. Measure growth, profitability, cash flow, and employee engagement. Measure the effect of training on sales, not how many training hours you actually provide per employee per year.
Persist. If it has been decided that collaboration is the initiative, by all means push it – no ifs and no buts.
Adapt and evolve. Collaboration is a work in progress. Adapt and innovate as you move ahead.
Collaborate to benefit the customer. Remind employees that collaboration is not just about helping fellow employees. Collaboration must benefit the customer.
Make the world a better place. Collaboration helps make jobs easier and employees more effective and stress-free so they can have more time with their families.
Converge, collaborate, evolve, or simply die. (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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