Why Collaboration is Even More Important Than Cooperation in the World of Business

by Michael Fiorenza on September 28, 2016

Have you ever participated in a three-legged race? Players divide up into teams of two. Each team ties one of each of their legs together, then they race using "three" legs. It's fun to watch, and excruciating to play. Having been used to using your legs independently at your whim all of your life, it's not easy relinquishing even a little bit of that control to someone else, even if you do stand to win a really cheap prize.

The three-legged race is difficult because it demands that we move beyond mere cooperation and engage in true collaboration. Cooperation would be sharing toys in the sandbox or playing together on the see-saw. Collaboration is the three-legged race. Why is this so important to your business? Because collaboration, including cloud collaboration, can mean the difference in the success and failure of products and even the success and failure of the entire business.

What are the Differences Between Cooperation & Collaboration?

Have you ever been in a meeting when someone blurted out, "Why don't you tell us how it works? You're supposed to be the experts." That's a sure sign that the group may be cooperating (they're in the meeting together, aren't they?) but not collaborating.

Cooperation is defined as assisting and complying. Like on the see-saw. Collaboration is actually working together to make things happen. That's the three-legged race. When you are able to move past mere cooperation and engage in true collaboration, you can get products to market faster, prevent employee and customer churn, break down the informational silos across the organization, and become a more innovative company. Cloud collaboration tools make it possible to collaborate across even the largest organizations, including remote workers, branch locations, and even partners and vendors outside the company.

How Do These Differences Play Out Across the Organization?

Let's examine how this works in the real world. Company A developed a new product. They spent months in development and hundreds of thousands of dollars marketing it. What they failed to do was to collaborate with key stakeholders, like the IT department, sales, customer service, and tech support. If they had taken advantage of cloud collaboration among these groups, they would have learned that the product was too technical for most of the company's customers. They would also have learned more about who those customers are and what they want and need out of a product from the sales and customer service staff. Furthermore, the sales team would have been made aware of the key selling points of the product, and customer service would have understood what the common usage issues were so that they could talk customers through it. Inevitably, the product failed, costing the company millions.

If the teams and departments had collaborated and taken advantage of the cloud collaboration tools available to them, they would have developed a better product, improved customer satisfaction, and empowered their people to help the customer embrace the new product. The entire scenario would have gone much differently. How can we know that? Because massively successful businesses like Google and Apple prove it.

Collaboration can even be done successfully among two separate companies (like the thriving symbiotic relationships between Microsoft and Intel, Coca-Cola and Heinz, and Reebok and Marvel. Cloud collaboration becomes even more essential when two or more companies are involved, since it's difficult to get key personnel together on a regular basis.

How Can You Move Beyond Cooperation into Collaboration?

You'll know you've moved past cooperation into collaboration when your teams are able to work together to make those hard decisions, determine what trade-offs are acceptable, and adjusting the workload to put the team first. As with any cultural change, it has to come from the top down.

So, you're convinced. Now, how do you get from the point of our anonymous Company A into Google and Apple territory? It means taking on a culture of collaboration. Like all successful organizational change, that happens from the top down. Begin small and gradually grow the spirit of collaboration from there. For example, choose one critical project and make collaboration the central plan for getting it done. If you already have a successful team of collaborators you can also graft collaboration from one team to other departments. Reassign these successful collaborators to other teams with the primary goal of spreading the collaborative techniques.

Remember, when trying to fundamentally change the culture of a cooperation, carrots work much better than sticks. Consider incentives and rewards for getting it right with collaboration.

Does your business have the cloud collaboration you need to be successful? Learn about your options when you download the Talon FAST™ video.

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