The Collaborative Edge: Why Cooperation is Good for Your Business

Is it survival of the fittest? Or do those who "fit in" survive? 

Fact: Each of us has only a part of the information or expertise we need to get things done.
Robert Kelly, of Carnegie-Mellon University asked people "What percentage of the knowledge you need to do your job is stored in your own mind?" In 1986 the answer was typically about 75%. By 1997 workers estimated that they had only about 15% to 20% of the knowledge needed in their own mind.

Fact: The group mind is far more intelligent than the individual mind.

In one research study, students studied and worked in groups during a college course. At the final exam, one portion was taken individually and additional set of questions was given to the group. Ninety-seven percent of the time, the group scores were higher than those of the best individuals of the group.

Fact: The critical element of the collaborative edge lies in the members' relationship skills.

Key skills for collaborative efforts include: having strong interpersonal skills, having at least one member with high-IQ (necessary but not sufficient), and having members committed to the goals of the group.
(Source: "Working with Emotional Intelligence", by Daniel Goleman, Ph.D.)

Living in the competitive atmosphere of the modern business world can blind businesses to an important fact: cooperation is critical to survival. While we focus on outdoing our competitors, we must also keep an eye out for opportunities to increase collaboration.
Cooperation is the hallmark of human success. No other living species depends on group collaboration as much as humans. We have succeeded as a species because we have depended on each other. Protection from predators or extremes of weather have been devised and constructed by cooperation among teams of workers. An abundance of food supplies is created by a partnership of growers, machine builders, transporters and vendors who support huge numbers of individuals who do not grow their own food. Even our knowledge system, passed on from individual to individual and from generation to generation is a monument to the capacity for collaborative effort among humans. Examples of cooperation are so prevalent in our lives that we often 
overlook them.

Collaborative efforts have many names: teamwork, strategic alignments, partnerships or networking, to list a few. When we cooperate, we create a "win-win" situation where both parties benefit. Businesses, like the larger human community, cannot prosper without such alliances.

Here are some essentials for creating effective and productive partnerships:

1.  Reach out to make connections.Collaborating on common projects, identifying resources, and supporting each other is an investment in our future.

2. Remember to balance focus on tasks with attention to relationships. Relationships will outlast the current task. Longevity in business is dependent on effective building of cooperative relationships.

3. Share plans, information, and resources. This expands your status; it does not diminish your value.  In the information age, those who provide valuable information are precious assets.

4. Model the qualities you want to receive. If you want to be respected, you must show respect. This is a variation of the golden rule. 

5. Discuss the common goals of the group. Discuss them frequently. Keep the common vision in awareness constantly.

6. Share credit. We are not successful by ourselves. Make sure to tell those who contribute to your success how valuable they are.