23 Apr, 2021
When collaboration meets success
Your nature can affect your success
"You reap what you sow” – at least this is how the saying goes.
If you choose to live according to this statement, you are most likely a giver. You tend to give away to others without even thinking about what you may get in return. On the other hand, in case you are wondering why anyone would jump into giving at his or her own expense without securing a worthy return first, then you are probably a taker or a matcher.
According to Adam Grant, in his book "Give and Take - A revolutionary approach to success”, people can be divided into these three groups - the givers, the takers, and the matchers. The author states that givers "are other-focused and prefer to give more than they get”, takers "are self-focused and like to get more than they give”, and matchers "believe in tit for tat and strive to preserve an equal balance of giving and getting”.
Learn more about how to spot a taker or a giver in one of his TED Talks
As an organizational psychologist and professor at Wharton University, the author largely relies on research data to support his findings. In the book, he explains why givers tend to achieve higher rates of success above takers and matchers, and how they do it. This idea of helping others to be successful resonated with our view, hence led us to try and understand how it can actually be applied to companies. According to him, apart from a handful of studies that recognized givers as better team players, evidence also suggested that collaboration is becoming more and more decisive for success.
Collaboration: why is it even more important nowadays?
Looking into the complex world we live in today, we see organizations dealing with more demanding challenges, transformation projects finding much more interdependencies, and teams shifting to larger groups of individuals that integrate diverse professional backgrounds and mental models. Therefore, to thrive in such challenging conditions, we all need to upgrade our leadership skills, especially those in an executive or management role. The traditional ways of working are no longer suitable to tame complexity and achieve the organization’s strategic goals. Success can’t be seen as a collection of individual achievements or great but isolated projects. We need to start looking into the bigger picture where the organization is considered as a whole, not a sum of isolated parts. And if we want to create value from such moving parts, we need to connect them… we need to collaborate, not only within each one’s project but also across the organization.
We believe it’s safe to say that many of us will agree to the importance of collaboration nowadays. But if we think carefully about our workplaces, we wouldn’t be so sure whether we are really witnessing collaboration around us. In an HBR article by Francesca Gino, professor at Harvard Business School, she highlights that you can "ask any leader whether his or her organization values collaboration, and you’ll get a resounding yes. Ask whether the firm’s strategy to increase collaboration have been successful, and you’ll probably receive a different answer”.
So, what makes collaboration such a hard endeavor?
Getting back to the initial idea, I would say it has a lot to do with our nature. According to a survey made by Adam Grant on over 30.000 people across industries, takers and matchers account for 75% of them. This means there is a lot of people that are not prone to help others. Their natural tendency is to secure the win for themselves first, instead of getting out of their way to help others and (maybe) secure a more significant win for the team.
Another aspect hindering collaboration is the society we have been growing in for a long time. From education to the workplace, we are drowned into a sea of competition in our acculturation process from a young age. There are incentives for individual winners everywhere that, when unbalanced, can create this idea of a zero-sum situation – "for me to win, you must lose”. Intentionally or not, people have been forced to be takers, which negatively affects the way they interact with others and, consequently, the organization’s results.
How can we foster collaboration?
The truth is, collaboration doesn’t have to be always about winning and losing. When working in teams, it’s quite easy to find win-win situations. If we help our team and we win, aren’t we all winning? Or if we are willing to share resources to help another project move forward and the organization wins, aren’t we all winning? Givers are the ones that navigate these turbulent waters with better chances of achieving the desired outcomes within their businesses. As Adam Grant puts it, "data show that it’s in interdependent situations that givers thrive. So if you’re the kind of person who enjoys helping others, when you’re working in a team, you have the ability to make the team better and really multiply the team’s success in a way that, ideally, reverberates to benefit everyone in the team”.
No wonder why givers are more likely to succeed, especially nowadays. The good news is that there is no need to go for an extreme makeover. You don’t need to become a giver all of a sudden, it’s not about changing yourself or your organization upside down. It’s about embracing a more holistic view where the whole is prioritized over the sum of the parts. It’s about rewarding collaboration while promoting a culture where it’s safe to help others. It’s about influencing those you lead by setting the example and lending a helping hand.
Now… have you stopped to think about what kind of organization you are building? We hope this article has proven its worth by raising awareness for such a key success factor that is collaboration.
Tiago Amorim Ramalho, Delivery Expert