Collaboration: a distracting buzzword, or vital for business growth?

Idea-sharing can help to encourage creativity and job satisfaction, but small firms risk losing focus on delivery

Phones biz

Collaboration is one of the buzzwords of the early 21st century. It has become a hot topic among early-stage companies, governments, artists, charities, startups and corporate behemoths. Many see collaboration as a super-pill that can cure organisations’ ills, regardless of the diagnosis. But is it truly as effective as we are led to believe?

Small businesses and early-stage companies should be especially cautious. There is no denying that collaboration is fun, and often intellectually exhilarating; it can also be helpful in generating new ideas and developing projects. However, it can distract from the crucial day-to-day operational focus a young company needs to deliver results in a competitive economy. Success among early-stage organisations is rarely just down to a good idea but to the execution of that idea. To appropriate Thomas Edison, it is “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”.

The ideals behind collaboration are sound and undoubtedly well-intentioned. Literally the word means “co-labour” or “work together”, and its popularity reflects a move in workplace culture towards openness and sharing. Over the past 20 years, the digital age has helped change organisational structures, driving further advances in technology, infrastructure and shifting societal dynamics. However, a new iteration of corporate jargon has emerged. Words such as synergy, strategise and, of course, collaborate, now fill the lexicons of HR departments, politicians and management gurus.

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