Transparency, openness, and shared technologies are essential for the future of business. The recent cross-industry adoption of open space office plans was only the start of the collaboration revolution. Closed-door offices, legacy software, land-line telephones? They’re all on their way out. Open spaces, open platforms, open minds: these are the tools that will build tomorrow’s success.
Savvy CEOs are reinventing their roles
Forward-thinking managers see their organizations as ecosystems composed of many discrete entities – from partners and employees to subcontractors, suppliers, and customers – each of which performs a different task. While these distinct parts must be organized into sections or departments of some sort, collaborative leaders are dedicating themselves and their resources not to further separating these groups, but to better interconnecting them in order to encourage networking, knowledge sharing, and the exchange of productive, enterprise-growing ideas.
And what about the new army of Millennials who prefer to telecommute but bring their app-stuffed smartphones and tablets to the office when they do show up? Well, they’re way ahead of the curve, having been connected since forever to the Internet, to social media, to professional groups… to the world. Collaborating comes as naturally to them as eschewing suits for sneakers. That’s why visionary managers mentor instead of reprimand them – because they know they’re destined for tomorrow’s C-suites.
Innovation-Driving Collaborative Tools
Here are three major collaborative technologies that are currently changing the way we do business:
- BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)
- Cloud-based personal file sharing
- An ever-growing multitude of specialized mobile apps.
BYOD isn’t a mere trend: more and more employees are coming to work with their own smartphones and tablets, asking for access to corporate email, intranets, calendars, and contacts. Once their requests are green-lighted, employees add performance-enhancing mobile applications to make it easier to get their work done, and use cloud-based file sharing to move documents and audio and video files across their various devices. In this way, they become almost organically connected to their workplaces, whether physical or virtual.
Says Monica Basso, Research Vice President at Gartner, “In the past, collaboration on mobile devices meant interaction through wireless messaging and voice calls… Today, smartphones and tablets have larger screens, touch-based user interfaces (UIs), location support, broad network connectivity, enhanced cameras and video support, voice over IP (VoIP), and so on. Such features enable […] employees to better communicate, collaborate, socialize, create and consume content.”
Satisfaction-Driving Collaborative Practices
The other most important collaborative tools aren’t new technologies but practices: “flexwork” systems that allow employees to set their own hours and to work from outside the office.
A study conducted by the Chess Media Group confirms that flexible work schedules are now the rule and not the exception. Comments Chess’s Jacob Morgan, “Over 80% of employees reported that their organizations offer flexible work arrangements. This includes everything from working from locations outside the office to working varied hours. Not surprisingly, over 90% of employees believe that offering flexible work arrangements makes the company more attractive to prospective new hires.”
The Four Keys to a Successful Collaborative Enterprise
According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, there are four skills that must be mastered to successfully deploy a collaborative workplace:
- Connect people and ideas outside the organization to those inside it: “To connect their organizations to the wider world, collaborative leaders develop contacts not only in the typical areas – local clubs, industry associations, and customer and supplier relations – but beyond them.”
- Leverage diverse talent: Studies show teams with members from diverse backgrounds can be smarter than homogenous ones. The need is to identify and build a group with members of different races, genders, cultures and ages.
- Model collaborative behavior at the top: “Depoliticizing senior management so that executives are rewarded for collaborating rather than promoting their individual agendas is an absolute essential.”
- Keep teams from being mired in debate: One problem with a collaborative culture is a tendency toward too many meetings with too few decisions. Decision-making rights must be delegated “so that someone can end the discussion and make a call.”
The ultimate goal of all collaboration is to empower people. By enabling people to choose the tools they want to use in a given context, enterprise leaders give them a voice and allow them to make vital contributions to the ecosystem. Rather than giving managers tools that provide more control, collaborative solutions give employees the tools to better control their own productivity, and as a result, the productivity of their enterprise.