Why it’s time to smash down the walls that damage and divide your business

By now most of you will have been back at work for a few days. Perhaps your initial optimism about the year ahead has waned a little. Maybe you have already looked around at your colleagues and your organisation and concluded, with a sigh, that it isn’t set up to succeed, in spite of all the grand plans and good intentions.

So let me suggest something radical. Don’t accept your surroundings as they are in 2017. Ask yourself instead which of the physical or psychological walls within your business – within hierarchies, between departments or functions – actually need to be in place. And if you can’t find a good reason, then do whatever you can to smash them down, without delay.

The truth is that in 2017 the cleverest organisations are finding that a step change in intensity in collaborative working is unleashing enormous gains in engagement and productivity.

There is nothing new about the idea of collaboration per se. Even so, almost all of us would admit that that we miss many opportunities every single day to collaborate more closely in the way we work and learn from one another.

  • If we work on a project we learn from it, but do we instinctively share the knowledge we have with others?
  • We talk to another person who has knowledge we could benefit from, but could another colleague be gaining from it at the same time?
  • We go to conferences and hear great speakers, but how good are we at passing on their knowledge beyond those already in the room?
  • And even if we are fortunate to work and learn in highly collaborative teams, do our sharing instincts extend to those outside our own organisational tribe?

We all “do” collaboration, but we can all do it better. In organisations, we work and learn in restrictive bubbles around ourselves or our immediate teams. Knowledge is clearly valuable for those inside the bubble – and it could be invaluable for others in the organisation. The alternative is a wasteful duplication of effort in the course of building knowledge.

Now things are changing – and quickly. Until very recently, the desire for greater collaboration within organisations was no more than a good intention, often stated but seldom realised. But something important has changed. The impact of technology – and the radical redesign of the workplace that it has driven – has raised the profile of greater “collaboration” to a competitive necessity.

We are moving into an era of “full-on” workplace collaboration where the rhetoric of yesterday potentially becomes the reality of today And in the process it will lead them to: a far more effective blueprint for organisational working and learning; A positive step change in employee engagement levels; and greatly increased levels of productivity. Many HR & L&D professionals now see the opportunity for collaborative learning but need help to exploit it. When it comes to accelerating the development of collaborative working and learning in their organisation, it is clear that they want to understand more and make the case for action.

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