We have been taught the value of team work from the time we were toddlers in pre-school. Sharing our crayons with classmates, helping out weaker counterparts in class projects, playing together as a unit in team sports, helping out around the house -- most people enjoy multiple avenues to hone their teamwork skills.
Unfortunately, in spite of all the years of practice that we get, a lack of cohesion and team work are cited as prime reasons for friction between co-workers at innumerable organizations. This friction often simmers under the surface for years, creating an atmosphere of distrust and one-upmanship that is lethal to a healthy organization.
However, collaboration within an organization has many more benefits than just a pleasant workplace.
Collaborative businesses market better.
A recent study conducted by Oracle quizzed over 900 marketing and IT leaders across 50 countries and over 500 organizations. According to this study, the most important benefit that comes from a collaborative workspace is the development of compelling marketing messages that led users to buy more. A good marketing message distils the best aspects of a product and presents it to the target audience in such a way that it perfectly satisfies the audience’s needs.
Through regular interactions with other teams, open lines of communication and cross-functional projects, each team learns more about the company and how they can contribute better to the organization’s success. Marketing teams can learn more about product nuances from the technology teams, discover customer quirks from the customer care team and better understand cost structures from the finance team. From a better user experience to more relevant communication to attractive pricing strategies, each of these interactions has a profound impact on the communication a brand puts in front of its users.
Other important benefits cited included faster speed to market and greater adoption of products and services offered.
Conscious collaboration versus informal collaboration.
Apparently, it’s not enough to unconsciously collaborate on projects. A 2013 Aberdeen Next-Generation Communications (NGC) study on the communications practices of 126 organizations found that organizations that said that they actively foster collaboration among employees showed a significant improvement in key business indicators year on year.
Let’s say your organization implemented a project management and collaboration tool like Wrike across all functions. The sharing function allows team members to share data easily and store all data related to one project in a single place. Simple @mentions like “@DesignTeam, we need the prototype sketches by 3:00 p.m.” make cross-team communication quicker and more transparent.
With robust communication within and between teams communication your organization could enjoy a 16 percent growth (y-o-y) in customer retention compared to non-collaborators. Employee productivity and employee satisfaction grows for consciously collaborative organizations by 15 percent and 13 percent respectively. In the case of non-collaborators, productivity grew only by 2 percent and employee satisfaction actually dropped 2 percent year on year.
Another study on the collaboration practices of 629 companies showed that these benefits are only felt when a collaboration is officially recognized as an organizational imperative and collaboration tools are formally installed to encourage maximum co-working across the organization. Invest in collaboration tools and mandate their use across the organization as a necessary factor to maximize organizational efficiencies.
Customer collaboration elevates the product.
Do not limit collaboration within the four walls of your organization. Collaborating with customers can be an equally rewarding experience. Even as companies lower their product research and development costs by sourcing ideas from customers, products incorporating these collaborative ideas tend to be more successful thanks to an existing demand for them among users.
The examples are numerous. A web-to-print service like Design'N'Buy allows users to design their own personalized products before buying them. MyStarbucksIdea is a vibrant community dedicated to inviting product ideas from Starbucks’ customers and implementing them in real products. Product innovation that comes from customer inputs even has the power to create whole disciplines. MIT professor Eric von Hippel describes how a user innovation of adding a foot strap on surf boards led to the birth of the high-performance wind surfing as a formal sport.
Much as we believe that we are most productive in our little silos, the fundamental fact remains that humans are social animals. By denying the opportunity to collaborate and cross-pollinate ideas, businesses contribute to their own speedy demise. In the interest of your business’ bottom line and longevity, join the 41 percent and 38 percent of marketing and IT leaders who have improved collaborative work practices in the last 12 months.