11/06/2015 02:42 pm ET Updated Nov 06, 2016

Collaborative Intelligence: The Competitive Advantage for Today's Organizations

Here is an example of a typical call that I receive from our clients at SHAMBAUGH: An organization is undergoing significant change. To keep pace with the evolving marketplace, customer demands, and industry trends, they need to reexamine their existing culture and leadership models to successfully adapt. Often in such scenarios, the desire to evolve is prompted by the president or CEO attending a conference that referenced the importance of an inclusive and collaborative culture.

In one specific instance, a company president (whom I'll call Steve) shared with me that his organization had just invested a lot of money in a new IT system that would now cross-integrate information across the organization. Would this do the trick to build a more integrated and collaborative environment, he asked me? I responded that while that's part of the equation, it's not the whole solution. What ultimately needs to drive this important shift, I told him, is your leadership -- which means that your organization must reinforce the right leadership model to ensure that the proper mindset, behaviors, and culture are first in place. Doing so will ensure lasting results versus a quick fix.

According to research that SHAMBAUGH conducted on 21st Century Leadership, one of the top attributes for today's successful leader is collaborative intelligence. Cultivating the type of leadership that results in a collaborative culture is more than a passing trend; it's directly related to the success of any organization. This form of leadership does not require that every decision be made by consensus. Instead, it means that your leaders must value and demonstrate the capacity to build productive partnerships and supportive relationships across divisions and the entire organization, connecting diverse viewpoints that include the perspectives of both genders.

I then shared with Steve that collaboration is the collective determination to reach an identical objective by sharing knowledge and learning while building consensus. "Collaboration is not solely based on having the best business processes and systems," I said. "You also need to cultivate a culture of collaboration and infuse this mindset into your organization's overall leadership strategy."

Steve shared that he believed lack of such a culture might explain why a number of people in his organization were resistant to the recent changes -- as well as why the leadership team and employees were not working as collaboratively and effectively as he had hoped. Steve wanted to know more about how to build a leadership mindset of collaboration -- with a culture that would support it.

Below are two of the most essential skills that I shared with Steve on how to build a strong collaborative team:

  • Move from top-down authority to shared power. Traditional leaders in the corporate world believe that their power derives from their position of authority in the corporate hierarchy. Yet allegiance to this approach is rapidly shifting, with many senior leaders now recognizing the urgency for a different approach to leadership. The idea of a new leadership model that moves away from hierarchy toward shared power is now essential for most organizations to be successful in our ever-changing--and perpetually challenging -- business environment. Collaborative leadership recognizes that power becomes greatest when shared in a collective team. By encouraging equal participation across all levels and distributed between both genders, collaborative leaders allow solutions to emerge from the best ideas of the group via a team approach to problem-solving.
  • Build bridges of cooperation and collaboration. In many cases, 1 +1 = 3. Today's complex problems and new environment require fresh thinking that in most cases requires a diverse spectrum of backgrounds to reach first-rate results. Factoring in the best team input, collaboration, and cross-disciplinary engagement with other colleagues in your department, company, and industry can help bring diverse perspectives forward to develop more robust solutions. As every good athlete knows, you can't reach your desired results if you don't work together as a team. Better solutions lead to better outcomes--for you and everyone in the company.

In my next post, I'll share five more strategies that leaders can use to help leverage collaborative intelligence to increase corporate growth, vitality, and competitive advantage for their organization.