Smart collaboration takes time. But it generates higher profits, inspires greater customer loyalty, helps attract and retain the best talent, and delivers greater innovation when specialists collaborate across silos.
Organisations today face a serious conundrum. They and their customers increasingly face complex business problems – everything from regulatory compliance to cybersecurity – that only teams of multidisciplinary experts can tackle. Yet, most of the required subject-matter experts are distributed across different internal departments and offices, creating organisational silos that are often reinforced by profit and loss structures, distance and differing micro-cultures. Collaborating across these silos typically feels costly, risky and inefficient, despite being essential for delivering integrated solutions. When they do it right – that is, integrate their knowledge effectively and efficiently to form unified solutions – I call it smart collaboration.
If you think collaboration is a soft skill, think again. For more than a decade, I have examined smart collaboration among organisational leaders while on the faculty at Harvard Business School and now at Harvard Law School. My research is based on millions of data records collected across multiple organisations, as well as statistical analyses, case studies, survey results and in-depth interviews. Both quantitative and qualitative findings reveal that smart collaboration makes organisations more productive and more profitable. In this article, I’ll outline the benefits and outcomes of smart collaboration, explain why individuals and organisations may resist, and offer suggestions on exactly how to achieve it in your organisation. Let’s dive in.