Collaboration is a great way to make use of the brilliant minds you’ve hired. However, when you search for “why collaboration doesn’t work” online, you’ll find dozens of articles from top-tier business publishers talking about the challenges many organizations face with collaboration.
On the other hand, studies find that collaboration is a valuable tool in business: “When asked what changes would have the greatest impact on their organization’s overall profitability, 56 percent of respondents ranked a collaboration-related measure as the number one factor,” according to a Raconteur special report.
This means that instead of doing away with collaboration, it’s time to make it work better. Consider the following issues and solutions to make collaboration work within your organization.
There Are Too Many People
You’ve probably heard the phrase too many cooks in the kitchen. A large team is often a hindrance to collaboration. Instead of helping, people talk over one another or go in circles debating a solution that no one can agree on. Not to mention, meetings can pose an efficiency challenge. Research from Harvard Business Review found that 20 to 30 percent of value-added collaborations come from just 3 to 5 percent of employees.
Get it on track: With fewer people at the table, you can focus on who actually needs to be involved, who will offer the greatest value, and who can focus on other projects. “Organize subdivisions and activities that are, at most, a multiple of 3. These mini-teams of 3 create a context in which each team member gets to share their point of view,” suggest collaboration experts at Hubgets.
Employees Are Social Loafing
Collaboration is a great way of using collective knowledge to create greater output and be more efficient. Unfortunately, this collective knowledge sharing can cause quiet or disengaged employees to rely on co-workers: “Ever been to a meeting where you’re the only one prepared? Then you’ve experienced social loafing—people’s tendency to invest less effort when they’re part of a team. When others are present, it’s easy for everyone to assume someone else will take the lead,” explains Ron Friedman.
This is annoying for co-workers who have to share the credit for their hard work with those who aren’t participating. And it negates the value of collaboration, where a shared group of voices comes together to find a solution.
Get it on track: No one wants to be micromanaged, and company leaders don’t want to spend their time babysitting employees. There are a few ways to handle social loafing:
- Create an anonymous tip box, where employees can share observations about fellow co-workers not participating in collaborative meetings. Team leaders can work with that person to get them, and future collaborations, back on track.
- Create a role of “collaboration team lead.” That person is responsible for getting everyone’s input, ensuring that everyone is participating as much as possible.
There’s Too Much Groupthink Happening
Collective knowledge sharing can also lead to “groupthink,” which is defined on BusinessDictionary.com as the “tendency of the members of a group to yield to the desire for a consensus or unanimity at the cost of considering alternative courses of action.”
This can cause poor decision making and lack of creativity: “When your best people reach a decision as a group, they can easily become overconfident with the results based entirely on the approbation of the group. This can have a quelling effect on creativity, leading those with better ideas to pipe down in service of keeping the group happy,” explains Ilya Pozin, founder of Pluto TV.
Get it on track: To ensure the best outcomes, start the collaboration with individual brainstorming, allowing employees to come up with their own fleshed-out ideas before getting into a room with 10 other people. This may boost confidence among collaborators who are now able to come to the table with an idea that they feel good about.
At the start of the meeting, everyone puts their idea on a sticky note (or whichever medium is most appropriate) and shares their resources and findings one by one. This allows the entire group to hear everyone’s ideas first, before collaboration starts.
Collaboration is a great way to get the most out of the brilliant thinkers in your office, but it can go off course quickly and easily. Diagnose the issue within your organization and then use these ideas to steer group sessions back on course. With a few simple tweaks, you’ll be back to having productive collaborations in no time.