Michael D. Moberly September 24, 2012
Collaboration across functional lines in which such things as, intellectual capital, ‘what works, what doesn’t work’ and structural/process capital, etc., are shared in order to arrive at a solution or achieve a particular objective, will produce new and/or enhance existing intangible assets. For me, that’s generally a good thing, particularly in the steadily rising numbers of intangible asset intensive companies globally!
Simply put, collaboration is a process in which two or more people and/or organizations work together to achieve or realize a shared goal. Collaboration is, to be sure, more than the mere intersection of common goals perhaps evolving from a co-operative venture or strategic alliance, etc., rather it’s a collective determination to reach an (identical) objective, that’s usually creative in nature and which experience, knowledge, and learning are shared to the point consensus is achieved.
Substantially reduced costs of communicating, globalization, and the increasing specialization, complexity, and cross-functional knowledge (intangible asset) based work have collectively make collaboration both essential and integral, i.e., anytime, anyplace, anyhow!
It would certainly be naive to assume all collaboration is successful or beneficial. Again, speaking from experience, in some collaborative environments, rigid adversarial positions surface – emerge that are not receptive to quick or easy amelioration. Thus, for most of us who have engaged in some type of collaborative undertaking, we recognize that collaboration requires some manner and/or level of leadership that best fits the circumstance, collaborators, and objective. But, recognizing the latter is what McKinsey describes as a problematic blindspot!
This underscores the need to develop – employ better techniques to manage this expanding, irreversible, and globally collaborative (business, transaction) environment. In a 2005 study, nearly 80 percent of the senior executives surveyed stated that effective coordination – collaboration across product, functional, and geographic lines was essential for company growth and sustainability. Yet, a mere 25 percent of the respondents characterized their organization as engaging in effective knowledge sharing (collaboration) across those boundaries.
A 2006 report produced by McKinsey Quarterly appropriately titled ‘Mapping the Value of Employee Collaboration’ leads us to believe a significant percentage of companies remain inexperienced about how to best manage, let alone, measure collaboration. For me, the focal point of collaboration leadership – management is recognizing not just the end product, but the myriad of new – enhancing intangible assets that inevitably evolve when creatives interact and collaborate!
Activity-based costing, knowledge management, business process reengineering, and total quality management, etc., have been the conventional and variously effective tools used to measure collaborative experiences, i.e., efficiencies and task achievement, etc. But, according to McKinsey, they do not do a particularly good job or shed much light on the largely invisible (intangible) networks that underlie the process and product of collaborations. Perhaps even more so, when the collaborators work across functional, hierarchical, and business unit boundaries as they commonly do.
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(A special thanks to McKinsey Quarterly’s fine report titled ”Mapping the Value of Employee Collaboration, Aubust. 2006)