I can' think of another time when technology connected us through multiple devices and apps, making communication and streams of information so manageable and accessible.

But is all this connectivity actually helping teams to work better and become more productive? In other words, is it actually helping us to collaborate better?

According to a 2013 Cornerstone OnDemand study, "The State of Workplace Productivity Report," a mere 38 percent of employees across generational lines stated there was not enough collaboration in their companies.

The Problem

If an organization can't turn the corner and become a collaborative culture, you can bet that competitiveness may be the culprit in stifling collaboration.

In her book The Silo Effect, award-winning journalist Gillian Tett illustrates how dumb people can behave when they are mastered by work silos.

Case in point, Sony missed riding the digital music wave because competing divisions couldn't agree on the right products and strategy. On the flip side, Tett demonstrates collaboration through Facebook's use of a hierarchy-free orientation program, frequent job rotations, and regular "hackathons" to encourage cooperation among project groups.

Management guru Ken Blanchard says that as children, we learn to naturally collaborate from as early as nursery-age, helping each other to build things on the playground.

Later in life, as we go through the educational system, resources become scarce and we learn that in order to attend the best schools, make the football team, etc., we have to compete with each other.

When we reach adulthood, says Blanchard, the pattern is reinforced as we compete for jobs, promotions, and special projects.

While healthy competition is good, a work culture born and bred on competitiveness will be the behavior of choice, thus killing any chance for collaboration.

This can take place in the form of coworkers hoarding information, and not sharing knowledge or expertise with one another for fear of losing an edge to a rival.

The Solution

In Ken Blanchard's latest business fable, Collaboration Begins with You, he teaches us the way to breaking silos and building a collaborative culture is done through an inside-out process of bringing people together through "heart, head, and hands."

He explains this approach in a recent Chief Learning Officer article:


This is about character and intentions toward collaboration. Do people see the value in considering other points of view? Do they understand the importance of a safe and trusting work environment?


This is the attitude and belief the organization has toward collaboration. Do people have a positive attitude about collaborating? Do they believe working together is the best way to achieve the goal?


This is demonstrated by the actions and behavior during collaboration. Do people freely share resources and information? Do they show other collaborative competencies?

Bringing it home.

By asking these questions, Blanchard says it will bring new light into whether individuals and teams are ready to embrace a collaboration strategy. The information gathered can help ascertain strengths within teams, as well as expose the gaps so teams feel safe enough to collaborate when these issues have been addressed.