Heidi K. Gardner, Ph.D.
Professor at Harvard Law and author of the book,
Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos.
The inspiration for Heidi's book occurred when she was a strategy consultant at McKinsey. She noticed that some teams were excited to work on projects and were innovative to a point that exceeded the possibilities the individuals on the team could do on their own. Those teams were able to see a significantly higher ROI on their work and enjoy exponential growth for their organizations as a whole.
We wanted to know more about smart collaboration, its ROI, and how patience is one of the keys to smart collaboration, so we invited her this week to the Helping Sells podcast this week to talk about it.
Investing in smart collaboration
In order to fully engage in smart collaboration, Heidi explained, you've got to invest a lot up front. There are a lot of costs an organization must deal with at the start, whether that's actual costs because they're buying new software or sending employees to learn new skills, or "mental" costs to employees as they internalize the new skills, build new mental muscles, and learn new processes.
To gain experience and practice those new skills or muscles, you may have to do a lot of this work for customers for free. It gives employees the opportunity to use the skills they just learned and the team a chance to develop even bigger and better project ideas for the customer, while still offering value to their customers. It's a risk, since customers may not sign up with you and just take the free information, but it's worth it in the long run. They just need to have the patience to wait.
[Author's note: make this a blockquote or pull quote]
"All benefits will flow from collaboration, but they don't happen overnight."
Being patient with smart collaboration
Because the costs are high and the risks are so big to any organization starting down the smart collaboration path, many quit too soon. They only see the barrier to being collaborative and aren't willing or able to wait for the benefits to flow in. Living through that time can be demotivating to people and organizations, however if they're able to ride it out, Heidi advised, they'll see growth. "Costs fall dramatically," she said, "but you have to get to that point."
It can be hard to get to that point, past the "pain barrier" as Heidi calls it, because the individual members of the team have their own motivations for working on the project. It may be for career reasons, professional development reasons, or something else entirely. If they're not seeing the benefits to the effort they're putting in to the smart collaboration, they're not going to wait.
Collaboration is a strategic imperative for organizations today; smart collaboration is even better for generating more value for customers. According to Heidi, the value generated by a team is far beyond the individual members of a team. "You're helping customers 'see' around corners," she explained.
Smart collaboration has so many benefits to a company or organization: increased revenues and customer loyalty, talent-related benefits for employees, and better engagement for employees.
As the world around us continues to be volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous, the need for multi-disciplinary solutions for customers will increase. Organizations that are prepared to deliver value to customers through smart collaboration will succeed; those that don't have the patience for it will not.
Is your company or organization investing in smart collaboration? What, specifically are you doing? Share your efforts in the comments as we'd love to hear about your experiences.
To listen to the entire conversation we had with Heidi, check out the latest episode of Helping Sells here, on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, SoundCloud, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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