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Bypassing the Bottleneck: 3 Rules for Modern Collaboration

Collaboration is at the core of modern business, but the way we collaborate isn’t always as cutting-edge as it could be. Since the tech world is definitely not suffering from a lack of tools — everything from streaming video to collaboration software, instant messaging, and social platforms keep us conjoined at the gadget — what gives? Actually, it might be all that versatility, all those choices, and the variety of ways we individually utilize them that’s pushing us into the collaboration bottleneck.

Bypass the gridlock by following these 3 rules for modern collaboration and keep your company from being bogged down by option overload.

Don’t Assume That Email is Enough

On average, email interruptions cost workers an hour of lost time every day. A quick scan around the Mindjet office showed that, depending on the type of email-manager someone is, and where they fall on the responsibility hierarchy, unread email counts spanned from zero to 142 (an unexpectedly low number from one of our chief officers). Varying email styles mean that, while some people treat unread messages as a to-do list, others face such an influx that they have to prioritize more strictly. And unless your email is short, marked urgent, and comes with a read receipt, you’re probably not being heard. And what good is radio silence when you’re collaborating?

If your email needs an immediate response, it’s probably a good idea to seek out the recipient using some other channel. Hit them up via chat, or social, or even the old-fashioned way: with a phone call.

Go Away, Managers

The toughest part about genuine collaboration is trying to equalize participation. Don’t get us wrong; we’ve talked before about how shooting for total contribution equilibrium doesn’t make sense, but that collaboration works because it utilizes resource aggregation and abandons traditional hierarchies. When a group tries to work together with a positional leader in the mix, it’s way too tempting to defer to their expertise, or the outcomes they value most.

You’ve heard of peer accountability — people work much better with their direct peers because they can actually relate to each other, and the obligation to complete tasks is more personally motivated. So if you’re a manager, stick to checking in every once in a while and leave your team be. They’ll let you know when they need you.

Encourage Unexpected Interactions

When two people know each other for a very long time, there often comes a point when conversation starts to revolve around remembrances or the goings-on of other people. Things get a little stale, ideas are recycled, and it takes some type of disruption to re-catalyze the relationship. The same thing can be said for teams or colleagues that work together for too long.

If you find that the marketing department is failing to come up with anything truly new or brilliant, bring in a developer, or someone from sales. Says Kellogg Professor Brian Uzzi, “Success is partially derived from relationships with other people, through whom they get access to expertise and capabilities beyond themselves.” It might be awkward at first, but new perspectives drive innovation, and this kind of atypical collaboration inspires radiant thinking, which has been scientifically linked to the natural pattern of human thought.

Lots of rules exist for modern collaboration, and it’s necessary to vet them and apply what works for your organization. Have one to share? Tell us about it in the comments.

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