Nanos gigantum humeris insidentes. “Dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants.” This ancient expression was first recorded in the 11th century, but is most commonly attributed to Isaac Newton’s letter to his rival, Robert Hooke, in which Newton stated, “What Des-Cartes did was a good step. You have added much in several ways, and especially in taking the colors of thin plates into philosophical consideration. If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Collaboration is one of the most critical workplace skills as businesses turn toward teamwork and collective innovation to accomplish corporate goals. Throughout history, most successes have not been built upon one person’s giant leap, but instead through the consistent efforts of multiple people building upon past accomplishments. Even, as Isaac Newton expressed, rivals can collaborate to do great things.
Modern people who are considered giants in innovation, such as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, accomplished their successes through collaboration and building teams of people to work together toward common goals. The collaborative model works better than the delegate model. When you are hiring for a business – you aren’t hiring order takers…you are hiring team members.
Delegation implies a lack of trust in employees’ ability to solve problems themselves. In companies where delegation is the primary management style, a boss tells his or her workers to do management’s bidding. In this model, managers become micro-managers and field an endless flurry of questions from the workers who have little or no creative room to work on solving problems. This type of environment does not foster creativity and it does not allow a business to grow beyond what has always been done. Employees are cogs in the clockwork – easily broken and easily replaceable.
Collaboration implies healthy trust in a team environment where team members are encouraged to consider problems and find creative solutions under the guidance of a team leader. In this model, a manager provides guidance while allowing team members the freedom to work out specifics, filling in each other’s weaknesses with strengths and building upon one another’s ideas to arrive at new solutions for old problems.
When a team works collaboratively, it encourages initiative and allows the team to accept mistakes without the burden of blame. When mistakes are made, the team can rise to the challenge and solve the problem, rather than play the delegation blame game, which does nothing to solve problems and creates discord within the business.
A collaborative team-oriented business model recognizes that people have different ways of going about performing and completing responsibilities for the company. Sometimes a team member’s method of problem-solving will be dramatically different from how the team leader or other team members would approach the same problem. But the process is generally not nearly as important as the result. If the team member gets the job done in a professional way and to the company’s quality standards, the process by which it was achieved has little bearing. When you allow your team the level of autonomy presented in a collaborative environment, they will often find methods that work better. Team members will work together to challenge the boundaries of what has be done and focus on bringing about what can be done.
Collaboration is an essential element of today’s fast-paced business world, just as it has been an essential element of innovation for all of human history. Guiding a team through a collaborative project maintains coherence without micromanagement. Collaboration challenges prevailing beliefs without elevating complexity. It focuses on the best of the human spirit, recognizing weaknesses and moving forward with strengths. When you use a collaborative approach to your business, you unleash innovation and solve the problems that really matter.
If you’re in a position of seeking out new ways to boost productivity for your company, please contact Alliance Group International. We would appreciate the opportunity to talk with you and help you identify ways to boost the productivity of your team and drive your business toward profitability and success.