“Collaboration is the process of two or more people or organizations working together to complete a task or achieve a goal.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Collaboration – A most common word among corporate, which passively aims to improve throughput by employee engagement; but if at all this word comes to fruition among corporate teams. Tools are being built like Slack, Trello & BitBucket (see a list here) to unite your team, improve communication and keep transparency between teams. But how many of these tools improved employee engagement at workplace. Does these tools improve human behavior to participate in the process? I believe No, but I would glad to be proved wrong.

Whichever tools we build for process automation and improved communication inside teams, we really need to understand that ultimately we are humans and actual collaboration happens when you change human behavior. Though I am active promoter of collaboration tools, but I do believe we should adopt few old-school techniques to improve employee engagement and spruce up collaboration.

I am giving example of one of my earlier co-workers, who was though a quite talented but mostly a self-consumed person, until I discovered how witty he could be at certain situations. When I talk about the human behavior of this person, he though could be the smart person in the room, but he was never vocal about it. Even though we had hundreds of project meetings, his behavior remained the same and I was quite habituated to it, until one day! One day, we were part of a conference together where we were presented to do few simple tasks and then I discovered the real him.

Have you been to a local picnic party with your co-workers and tried to play “Antakshari“? Try once and see the actual collaboration that happens outside the office. When you play Antakshari, there is no single winner or loser. It is a game of teams and each member gets chance to contribute without fear and dominance. Employee & boss culture is ignored in Antakshari, as every member is curious enough to contribute and seek help too.

team work

In the conference, we were divided into group of 5 people each where my co-worker was in a different team and were asked to discuss a startup idea and prepare the business model canvas. We were given 20 minutes to complete the task, while we did took more than 30 minutes to ultimately fail or not satisfied with the outcome. Now, why did this happen? Here before collaboration what came into mind is competition to be the smarter, domination to prove your value among other group members. Almost same fate with other teams too.

Then we were given a task (among the same group members) to enact a play of 10 minutes, where we need to memorize the script and act on it. Note here that we were not professional actors. Thus we were not there to get an Oscar and certainly we didn’t memorize the script properly. But those 10 minutes were the most productive session of the event. All the 5 members in each group were random and unknown, but during this 10 minutes session I barely noticed collaboration in randomness, where none of the members were trying to prove to be smart as alone. Everyone wanted to play the act and were willing to know what the other person has to say or how to say. I took a glimpse of the enactment of my co-worker and I saw a different person out there, which I never witnessed during office meetings.

Collaboration happens when you are not subpressed, judged or humiliated for your opinions based on your knowledge and experience. Collaboration should encourage participation and discourage dominace, fear and legacy hierarchial advantage.

Three simple tips we need to follow in order to achieve collaboration in true sense:

  1. Be ready to talk less and listen more: It is an usual attribute within most of us that we prepare ourselves to talk ourselves and not know how to carry forward a talk. Being a part of the team, you should also know how to add more value to the discussions and that will happen when you will listen carefully to your fellow team members and then add your views.
  2. Be flexible and adaptable to different answers: Assuming that the answer we know is right, proves our knowledge; but assuming the answer we know is the only right answer, proves our ignorance to adapt. In a collaborative environment, there are different answers to a single question mostly and those answers come from different sources. We should be flexible enough to adapt to different process to grow as a team.
  3. Make others comfortable enough to contribute: Think about the difference between the two above tasks – formulating a startup idea & business model and enactment of a play. The major difference is the approach of how each task is being handled. First task was more self centered and second task was more team centric. While working as a team, you need to make the other team members comfortable to express their ideas and “adding” more improvisations will help collaboration.

If you are facing challenges with team work and lack of prompt communication inside your organization, try the above few techniques to encourage employees to contribute much greater ideas. Every member of team will be heard and that will increase participation and achieve collaboration.