How often have you heard a statement in your work environment that sounded like this: “The objective of this program is to foster more effective collaboration.”

As business author and blogger Andrew Pope points out, collaboration is often mistaken for the end goal, rather than the means to get there. And in fact, we see companies putting a lot of time, dollars and resources into collaboration tools like Sharepoint without having real goals for the collaboration.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we’ll share Pope’s recommendations on the role of collaboration and its best use in meeting your organization’s goals.

Collaborate With Purpose. The role of collaboration is anything you want it to be, but you have to take the effort to define the purpose. For example, you don’t go and buy a lawnmower then take it home and figure out what to do with it. Instead, you invest time, money and effort in things that have a clear and distinct purpose.

Pope suggests beginning by looking at your team or organizational goals. What do you do for your customers or your stakeholders? How can you leverage trends to do better?

Next, work back from these goals to your teams. How can you better utilize the knowledge, experience and problem-solving potential that you have to meet these goals? Collaboration will be the force to make it happen.

Give Permission To Collaborate. Once we have a purpose for our collaboration tool, the other essential need is the missing set of instructions. We spend time providing guidance on how to use the individual tools, yet rarely do we provide guidance on how to collaborate.

Where and how should you initiate and join conversations that drive collaboration? Do we give our teammates permission to collaborate or do we create a culture where employees feel constrained by expectations of management that we shouldn’t be spending time talking among ourselves unless it’s to do with a specific task?

Allow for a collaborative culture by giving people the permission, time and resources to collaborate.

Goals And Guidance Direct The Way. Finally, what are we collaborating towards? How do we collaborate? How can we encourage people away from the safety of their desks working like robots on individual tasks? We must answer these questions before we can expect the buzz of collaborative teams in an open environment.

Once we are ready to cultivate collaboration and have the goals in place which collaboration supports, then we can create a physical collaborative space. Some companies designate collaboration rooms or brainstorming rooms. Many companies such as Trello, Yammer or Microsoft Office 365, put digital tools in place. No matter the structure you create, be sure you provide both the tools and instruction for collaboration.

Remember, the software won’t give you collaboration. It will only support it. Identify the goals, create some instructions and empower your team to collaborate. It’s a powerful way to solve problems and support your goals.

Source: From environmental science beginnings to project management, knowledge management and innovation management, Andrew Pope always appreciated how mature collaboration is critical to the success of any project. Advising global investment banking and professional services sectors, Pope worked on some wonderful knowledge and collaboration projects. His biggest challenge was being asked to help a global engineering firm be more innovative. The experiences of all of this motivated him to co-establish Innosis, helping organizations focus collaboration towards innovation and continuous reinvention.