DR. HEIDI K. GARDNER, PhD is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School, author of Smarter Collaboration, and co-founder of the research and advisory firm Gardner & Co. In this interview, we dive into collaboration overload: Why it happens, how it can disadvantage certain groups of people, and how to overcome it.

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The Benefits of Smart Collaboration

In today’s business world, it is more important than ever to be intentional about the way we work together. With the increasing complexity of the problems we face, it is no longer possible for one person to have all the answers. By bringing together people with different perspectives and experiences, we can develop a more comprehensive understanding of the issue at hand. This is what is known as “smart collaboration.” It is a deliberate and intentional way of working together to achieve a specific outcome and who is involved in the decision-making process. Smart Collaboration can have a number of benefits, both for the individual and for the organisation as a whole.

For the individual, smart collaboration can lead to increased job satisfaction and a sense of achievement. It can also help to improve mental health outcomes.

For the organisation, smart collaboration can lead to increased productivity, creativity, and profits. It can also help to improve diversity and inclusion objectives.

The new hybrid work model offers the opportunity for organisations to become more inclusive and hire diverse talent from around the world; however, there is also the risk that it could lead to further segregation and division among workers. Additionally, there is a growing concern about “collaboration overload,” or when people are asked to take on too many tasks and don’t have the time or resources to do them all effectively. This can lead to further issues such as decreased productivity, decreased diversity, and less effective collaboration overall. Smart collaboration can help to improve diversity and inclusion objectives, but only if people are not stretched too thinly. Over-commitment can lead to adverse outcomes and undermine the goals of diversity and inclusion.

So what are some of the key elements of smart collaboration?

  1. Be intentional about who is involved in the process. This means bringing together people with different perspectives and experiences.
  2. Have a clear goal in mind. This will help to focus the group and ensure that everyone is working towards the same objective.
  3. Make sure that everyone has the opportunity to participate. This includes ensuring that everyone has the time and resources they need to be effective.
  4. Give people the space to disagree. This is the only way to truly challenge assumptions and come up with new ideas.
  5. Celebrate successes. This will help to build team morale and encourage people to continue collaborating.
  6. Finally, it is important to learn from failures. This will help to improve the process and make sure that mistakes are not repeated.

If we are to truly benefit from the power of collaboration, we need to be intentional about the way we do it. By following these guidelines, we can create a more inclusive, productive, and creative workplace.


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