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The ‘We’ Talk

The corporate equivalent of ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ would be that it takes collaboration to make a fortune for organisations. In today’s world, collaboration is not just another empty, cliched buzzword that runs in circles. The concept now resonates with an organisation’s success and prosperity.

But despite it all, the managerial processes in most cases of hiring and assessing a candidate remain individualistic and self-navigating.

Our decade has embraced collaboration as a superior work ethic, propelling innovation and shared success. With COVID-19 normalising hybrid workplaces and technological advancements opening up doors for cross-functional opportunities, collaboration has become the newest secret sauce. However, the management practising an underlying managerial decision-making gap must applaud collaborative practices. Despite considering a prerequisite in most jobs, the reward measures need to be more specific in collaborative approaches. The parameters of assessing employees or candidates yet remain individualistic, more so after the pandemic. So, a contrast continues to exist in the space. So, is management worldwide downplaying the importance of collaboration on a large scale?

While searching for answers to this, we found out about Project Aristotle, one of Google’s very own research on their teams that spilt the tea of this tech giant’s success. In the early 2010s, Project Aristotle was conducted to understand what makes high-performing teams tick. This landmark study concluded with the key takeaway that individual factors like personality or expertise didn’t majorly impact team performance. Instead, the highlight shifted to how team members interacted and learned from each other. Moreover, the study determined how important the motion of psychological safety within the team matters to the performance of individuals, emphasising the equality of voices and clear visions on the side.

The research was a major event in the corporate world and Google being the one to lead it only emphasised its credibility. As a catalyst of change, the study challenged traditional practices of highlighting individual talent and contributions in a team environment. The research influenced the way major companies like Netflix and Spotify shaped their workplace cultures. Change has been there, from introducing 360-degree peer reviews to promoting flat hierarchies.

Teams tick more boxes in the success checklist than individuals, leading to change, prosperity, and thriving success. So, why don’t we assess teamwork for recruitment or promotions first? Why can’t we prevent silos? Are we downplaying the proven road to success, or have we just become too habituated to change it?

Defending teamwork as the measurement of success may look quite easy on paper, but implementing it is more complex with tools. First comes the logistical complexity that groups and teams often face. As organisations become more cross-functional, creating and managing a well-rounded and resourceful group happens with coordinating schedules, finding appropriate tasks, and ensuring clear evaluation criteria, which is not the best suited for most organisations. While organisations try to grip on collaborative aspects, misdirected teamwork can only result in a spiralling downfall. And how can one forget the unequal workload teams are famous for projecting? Free riding and unequal contributions make it hard to set collaborative goals as standard measures, not to mention the biases it may promote.

Introducing and practising collaboration in the workplace is inevitable in any context. However, promoting collaboration at large is a slippery slope for management. Despite the need to stay relevant to the chase, management is somewhat cautious about promoting collaboration over individual strengths. Slowly, yet steadily, the scenario is evolving. From introducing real-life simulations of teamwork to encouraging case studies and hackathons in workplaces, collaboration is slowly being written off as a must-have. No company is adapting the practice; it is becoming the new normal for workplaces as days go by. Netflix regularly hosts internal hackathons to encourage innovation and collaboration among its diverse employee pools. Employees tackle challenging technical problems with brainstorming and ideation, that too, within a limited timeframe. McKinsey & Company utilises client simulations to assess potential consultants’ problem-solving, teamwork, and client interaction skills.

Who hasn’t heard the phrase ‘Unity is strength’? Belgium even has this phrase as its national motto. From a much minuscule perspective, organisations resonate with the slogan of unity, all while cherishing the individuals at its core. There’s no denying that it does take a combined effort to make a fortune in this faraway land, but the question is, are we ready to appreciate the art of ‘we’ over ‘i just yet?

Author: Subeh Tarek

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