Do you remember the good old days when you could get on with your work by yourself? Are you wondering why you have to work more with others than you did before? The World Economic Forum states that ‘coordinating with others’ is among the top five skills needed in 2020, and Deloitte suggests that the key to higher organisational performance is a shift from hierarchies to teams.
Swarm intelligence, such as the type of creative intelligence that honeybees have, is one of those observed in social insects at the core of MIT’s Peter Gloor’s COIN concept. ‘Collaborative Online Innovation Networks’ is a type of open collaboration that helps organisations become creative, innovative and productive1.
There are three main reasons why collaboration is more critical today than it was five years ago:
1. Problems are more sophisticated
It’s fair to say today’s working world is much more complicated, and it has become that way as a result of some seriously substantial external factors that are shaping not only our business world, but also our personal lives.
These factors include climate change, increased regulation, weak economic growth, more diverse workforce, political instability, social change, and last but certainly not least, competitive advantages created through technology such as the digital revolution and AI.
2. Greater drive towards innovation
One of the most significant responses to all these external factors has been an increasing need to respond to their customers’ needs more quickly and flexibility2. This has had a knock-on effect in how we need to run our organisations in 2020 to thrive and grow.
3. The structure of our business has changed
In response to meeting the requirements of being more flexible and responsive to customer needs, along with the technological advancements mean that there has been a change in how we structure our people.
You have probably noticed a significant shift away from working in hierarchies to working more in a network (see diagram 1). Working in this kind of structure means that the boundaries are not so distinct, and there is a blurring between worker and customer. For example, it’s now possible to be both a freelancer and a customer with the same organisation. You might have noticed that your job has become broader and that you wear more hats, as you work across business functions in a way you didn’t do before.
Job roles are much less clear, and there has been a shift towards project-based work from process-based work. Greater collaboration is key to working in this new kind of structure. We certainly found this back in 2013 and these ideas have been supported by other consultancies3.
Thoughts for the week:
Take a little time to observe the projects that you are on. Ask yourself what brings you all together? Which ones have problems that require people across function to solve them? What hierarchies do you have in your organisation and are they now the best way to get things done? Do you see opportunities for evolution?