Leadership Blog

Collaboration is Business

Monday, June 15, 2009

One of my favorites subjects is collaboration. I was recently in Hawaii and watched the outrigger canoe paddlers each morning in front my condo. Most boats had six or eight paddlers with a person in the back calling the stroke rhythms. What is interesting in outrigger racing is it’s not the strongest paddlers that win but the team that is completely in synch paddling. If one person is out of synch, the effort is lost. Think of the CEO as the caller in back keeping everyone (company or management team) in synch.

Another analogy is how a Canadian geese flock always flies in a V pattern. It is interesting to watch the geese as they “slip stream” or draft off each other, much like in bicycle racing, car racing or even swimming. The goose at the head of the V is always changing, they take turns pulling the flock. In the geese world the V formation allows them to be 15% more efficient. Meaning that as a collaborating team they can travel farther and faster, than on their own or not working together.

Collaboration in business is a cornerstone of a high performing team. Along with communication, purpose, measureable goals, and different perspectives (such as the different social styles of driver, analytical, amiable and expressive). Collaboration and communication go hand in hand. Just look at the proliferation of collaboration software tools and social networks in the last five years. Consider how sites like facebookmyspace, and linked-in allow people to connect and exchange ideas and information. Collaborating in business on a global basis is the key premise made by Thomas Friedman in his great book “The World is Flat”.

One lesson I have learned in business (and life) is the better you are at collaborating with people, the better your business career and the better your life will be. I guess you could say collaboration is the measure of a person in business.

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