Collaborating in a specialist world

I'd like to discuss the importance of collaboration and how difficult it is in a specialist world. In a modern workplace today, particularly in the digital space where there is a big emphasis on knowledge of the "individual", it is more important than ever to ensure collaboration takes place for the good of all. How do we ensure that sharing takes place when there are such strong economic forces driving individual expertise? With the emergence of the freelance worker where individual knowledge is the equity of value in the marketplace, how does society manage this balance?

The deeper the expertise in a niche area of technology, the greater the reliance on that knowledge and the more money that the individual can make. As a result, there is strong competition to become the best in any area. Capitalism encourages individuals to progress themselves first and then only to think about the group later. This is endemic in the consulting industry which is driven by knowledge. 

The best consultants have confidence in their own ability and understand that it is their experience that gives them the edge. This can result in the selfish pursuit of personal skill advancement over sharing. You only have to look at Australian politics in recent yearsand the turmoil around its leadership to see how misaligned objectives can drive selfish behaviour instead of the greater good. There is a danger in this, but ironically it is also a necessary evil in the consulting industry.

This is at odds with the need for sharing in society in order for everybody to learn and for the whole of society to advance. New ground can only be gained when all of the best people are working together in a collaborative environment. We need lots of teamwork in the fast moving technology sector that we operate in today. As David Villa says in his article on The Power of Creative Collaboration, "Today, the biggest breakthroughs happen when people with a collective vision join together and share ideas, information, and work." Arguably there is a lot of room for improvement of this in the consulting sphere.

A culture of teamwork and collaboration is going to become more important than ever with the growth in remote and independent workers. Organisations have a part to play in this. Companies who are implementing technologies are going to need to get good at ensuring that their workers are aligned. Organisational structures, processes, incentives and collaboration tools all need to be looked at to support this. Good leadership is also critical to ensure that there is lots of communication and that obstacles preventing trust and sharing are removed.

Beyond the customer's sphere, with the advent of the gig economy causing an increase in Temp workers, there is also a role for associations and collaborative  groups to play in this. It is more tricky to retain and share knowledge between independent contract workers these days given that they move quickly from job to job. Through associations of independents working together, structures may be put in place to retain and develop group knowledge. The biggest benefit of this approach comes from groups forming combined teams to deliver services and support to customers. We are starting to see marketplaces emerging around this to support our future services landscape.

With the services marketplace changing over the coming years there will be an increasing reliance on collaboration and all that supports teamwork. We expect this to be most prevalent in market niches where knowledge is king. The market is in flux yet again!

 

By Craig Westcott

Fusion5 Executive Director 

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