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New organisations demand new ways of developing collaborative abilities

With individuals in all organisations collaborating more than ever as networks of teams drive an uplift in value creation, investing in developing collaborative capabilities is of paramount importance. Firms that are seeing the greatest uplift in these capabilities are those that bravely moving away from traditional team-building and influencing skills training and instead focusing on developing the foundations needed to thrive in a multi-dimensional, complex network of teams.

As we recently discussed, if organisations are to develop the agility required to deal with the opportunities born out of progressive change and the threat of market fragmentation, they must allow strong, vibrant communities to emerge and enable the business to be flexible and adaptive.

Creating the change needed within organisations to shift to this agile structure not only requires addressing strategic organisational design issues, but also relies upon businesses asking themselves if they are providing their talent with the capabilities needed to forge and participate in innovative communities which have the 6 characteristics of high performing networks.

Given that truly global operating models, flattening hierarchies and networks of teams involve a change in context that demands new ways of thinking and behaving for most individuals, it is no wonder employees often question if they have the energy reserves and suitable skills to adapt to this new world. Add to this the fact that they are also faced with collaborating globally through new, often unfamiliar, technologies and partnering with a more generationally diverse group of people, due to the broadening of demographics in the workplace, it becomes clear that an targeted development is critical to setting employees up to flourish in this environment.

Therefore, the critical question we continually hear from organisations’ is ‘How can we equip all of our talent with the collaborative skills they need to harness the collective energy and resources within a community and deliver sustainable, high performance?’

Current approaches such as classroom courses teaching negotiation skills or influencing strategies won’t address this adequately enough, as they provide employees with how-to guides for linear relationships not a deep understanding of how to maximise multi-person relationships. Instead businesses need to establish a development ecosystem that provides people throughout the organisation with what is needed to succeed in this messy, innovative, networked environment. We have seen greatest results come when businesses focus development activity on three of the building blocks of the collaborative behaviours needed to equip talent not only to survive in a networked environment but also to grow.

Next generation emotional intelligence

Participation in a high performing network requires individuals to read the complex social dynamics and social undercurrents that are a shaping force within it. Development must go beyond focusing on the ability to empathise and express emotions within dyadic relationships to an approach that engenders a deep understanding of complex multi-person networks. By extending an individual’s emotional intelligence to understand the inter-person dynamics within a network, they are better equipped to address topics such as how to create a shared identity and sense of belonging in a dispersed group who have differing opinions, interests and motivations. Given that this is no longer only the remit of leaders but the responsibility now sits with all network members, deep emotional intelligence and an understanding of social dynamics are critical.

Powerful communication

For innovation and creativity to flourish in a network, individuals must deploy sophisticated communication techniques that facilitate the continual sharing of knowledge, open debate and pull upon the perspectives of a diverse group of people in every conversation. ‘Communication skills’ development should no longer focus on the content of messages and forums for communication but instead should seek to provide individuals with core dialogic principles that give them the flexibility to powerfully communicate in any situation. Individuals benefit greatly from developing dialogic techniques that allow them to truly respect and listen to others whilst suspending their own beliefs, ultimately finding the right way and opportunity to put their own voice forward confidently.

Collaborative resilience

In order to personally perform in multiple networks and to relish the pace of change associated with a highly networked organisation, individuals need to prioritise their own resilience. Yes, health and wellbeing are ‘table stakes’ here but organisations who create resilient individuals, and hence resilient networks, offer development beyond mindfulness and wellbeing courses. Individuals should reap the benefits of an evolutionary source of resilience that is embedded in the network - social support. Individuals’ mental and physical resilience has been shown to flourish by creating strong ties with other network members. Additionally, individuals need to proactively establish personal resilience strategies by determining what to say yes to, how to say no to requests for help whilst maintaining their relationships within the network and identifying how to add greatest value to the network without depleting their own personal resources.

By investing in development approaches that foster EI, powerful communication and true resilience, individuals will become equipped with the interpersonal adaptability and personal strength needed to contribute to the agile, ever changing emergent communities that are becoming the heartbeat of successful, innovative organisations.