Collaboration: Three Views from the Harvard Business Review, Part II

In part I, we discussed how true collaboration grows the pie while false collaboration just splits it and how the Harvard Business Review recently ran a special series of articles and posts on Making Collaboration Work. Some of these articles were quite insightful and a good read for any Supply Management professional looking to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of her supply chain. In this post, we are going to address the insights from two recent HBR posts that capture some key insights.

In collaboration as an intangible asset, the authors state that the most important intangible asset an organization has is the ability to collaborate. This is because it’s the willingness on the part of people to work together to solve problems when they could just as easily pass them along to someone else that usually means the difference between “good enough” and “outstanding” and differentiates an average organization from one that is constantly innovating. And given the price-earnings multiple fetched by companies like Amazon or Apple, it’s easy to see why “ability to innovate” and “brand management skill”, which is a product of great collaboration, is important to any company that wants to become a Global 3000 leader.

As a result, the authors argue that it is important to monitor and manage collaboration, and one way to do that is through social network analysis (SNA). SNA allows an analyst to see the patterns of interaction — information sharing, problem-solving, coaching, and mentoring — that make up the less visible, often informal side of an organization. This makes it possible to depict the networks that underlie or exist in parallel to the formal organization charts and process diagrams and, in turn, assess whether reogranizations or other efforts to improve collaboration are likely to have the desired impact. In addition, it can uncover the existence of parallel innovation efforts. This allows the organization to combine teams, and efforts, and get the most bang for their buck by minimizing effort in a way that maximizes the chances of success.

Finally, in quantity vs. quality in collaborations, the author addressed the potential of the web for crowd-sourcing innovation, as Innocentive does. Not only does crowd-sourcing bring more ideas, but it brings more opportunities for collaboration, which, in turn, creates more ideas and increases the chance that a great idea may knock on your door. And it also increases the chance you’ll find a great collaborator who can help you to better interpret this wealth of insights, to recognize the value of ideas that is not often visible at first, especially when it comes to radical change, and to identify a novel strategic direction. And that just might be the key to your collaborative success.