Is Your Collaboration Style Counter-Productive? Try a More Modern Method

By Caitlin Denham-Swanson

Done right, collaboration pays major dividends, starting with faster and better decisions, greater productivity, and happier teams. Done wrong, it can lead to seemingly endless discussions and chats, slowed productivity, and groupthink. Fortunately, collaboration has evolved in the digital age. These days, effective collaboration is more than a nice-to-have aspiration; it’s a cornerstone of a workplace Culture of Action, that is based on speed and focused on results.

Today’s employees want to work collaboratively because they’ve realized that it makes work more satisfying. In fact, 75% of digitally talented employees prefer to join organizations that offer open and collaborative workspaces, according to a report by the Capgemini Digital Transformation Institute.

Modernizing your approach to collaboration for today’s digital work culture requires changes to both process and technology. Keep reading for an overview of how to let go of old-school practices and migrate to modern collaboration, tailored for today’s digital work culture.

Pointless vs. Purposeful Collaboration

  • Old school: Collaboration for the sake of collaboration never works. It’s time to put a stop to endless group discussions and amorphous brainstorms. Get to the point already!
  • Modern: Embrace “purposeful collaboration.” Come together with an end-goal in mind and move toward it purposefully, focusing on outcomes and results. Don’t worry, those guardrails won’t quash creativity; they’ll help you stay on point and make better decisions. And with only the essential stakeholders in the conversation, you’ll reach consensus sooner.

Siloed vs. Integrated Collaboration

  • Old school: Email chains as long and slow as a freight train are the worst way to collaborate. A staggering amount of time is wasted passing attachments back and forth or digging through old threads. Many digital collaboration solutions have these same problems — walled-off conversations and data — requiring employees to jump from app to app to complete tasks, gobbling up additional time.
  • Modern: Your teams need a single, unified productivity platform for faster and more effective collaboration. This is the digital workspace that brings together documents, spreadsheets, messaging, and even CRM data. Everything is now in one place and accessible from anywhere (i.e., mobile-friendly). Discussions are transparent and team members can be reached easily. Get ready for turbocharged teamwork.

Fragmented vs. Structured Collaboration

  • Old school: Siloed collaboration negatively impacts your decision making. When you view a document or report in one place and discuss it in another (email, chat), you’re more likely to miss details and lose focus. Fragmented collaboration leads to faulty collaboration.
  • Modern: Whenever possible, collaboration should take place within the context of a specific business process. This is “structured collaboration” and it doesn’t refer to rules and guidelines for a collaborative meeting. Rather, a “structured” digital workspace allows teams to collaborate within the context of data or information, such as a CRM system or online document. For example, editing an online document and adding comments to a running feed within the document, rather than emailing versions of it back and forth. When employees view the most relevant information in real time, they’ll make more accurate decisions in less time.

The overall technology goal of structured collaboration is to provide employees with a unified platform where everything—people, data, docs, conversations—is within reach.

Interruptive vs. Asynchronous Collaboration

  • Old school: Are your teams tired of feed-based collaboration apps? Tired of endless dialogue without results and constant interruptions that derail focus? Digital collaboration tools provide a sense of immediacy, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. 
  • Modern: Choose a digital platform that allows for “asynchronous collaboration” so team members can move a project forward any time, but aren’t forced to do so immediately. You have the option to complete other tasks then return to a collaboration space to add a comment or contribution.

Evolving your digital collaboration from old school to modern will take time. Try addressing these aspects of collaboration one by one and experiment with what works best for your business. Little by little, you should see a boost in project speed and decision-making quality.

To learn even more about effective collaboration and its role in creating a workplace Culture of Action, download our ebook, The Empowered Workplace: How to Build a Culture of Action in the Digital Age.