5 More Rules to Avoid a Collaboration Hangover

Last week I discussed how many organizations are now seeking the benefits of social collaboration, yet Gartner estimates that throughout 2015 about 80% of social business efforts are not expected to achieve the intended benefits. Even more so, many collaboration initiatives leave participants behind with a hangover, generating the opposite effect of what was intended originally. So how can you make sure you don’t suffer from a collaboration hangover? Here the final 5 rules.  

6. Think WIIFM

When collaborating with others, people often fear that they will give more than they get back or that they will reveal more of themselves than they want. Define a clear ‘What’s In It For Me’ (WIIFM) for all parties contributing, setting clear expectations as to what people are willing to invest and what they will get back. The LEGO Ideas initiative allows volunteers to submit any project idea to LEGO. Ideas reaching 10,000 votes are reviewed by the LEGO Review Board and potentially turned into real products, with the person having submitted the original idea receiving 1% of the total net sales of the product. Sharing is caring: create a ‘wall of fame’, making the output of collaboration visible to everyone, put high-performing contributors in the spotlight and embed continuous feedback loops. Sometimes, a simple ‘thank you’ is good enough. The moment users feel they are no longer listened to or appreciated, they will pull out.

7. Don’t Believe What People are Telling You

We all know the good old quote from the late Steve Jobs that “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” He is right in many ways: people often don’t know why they are doing what they are doing, they can’t even always report back about what they actually did, let alone what they were trying to solve. When people are expressing what they want, we often start from the false assumption that they have a set of stable, explicit, conscious and consistent preferences to live by. Instead of having people tell you directly what they want, you could observe, involve and activate them in new and creative ways so you can get to their deeper needs and emotions. Have you ever considered swapping roles in your company, experiencing how it feels to step into someone else’s shoes and having people learn from this? Take a look at how Adecco’s CEO Patrick De Maeseneire organized a ‘CEO for one month’ competition among Millennials to take on his job for one month. Congrats to Paola who got the job!

People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. – Steve Jobs

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8. Create Memes

Memes are defined as carriers of ideas, behaviors or styles that are transmitted and spread from one person to the next within a culture. Much in the same way as genes, they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures. Worthy of being imitated and repeated over and over again, memes can be very instrumental in making collaborative initiatives self-sustaining and long-lasting. Think about the power of the selfies or loom bracelet hypes, spreading like a virus by having people imitate and inspire each other. At Amazon, Jeff Bezos installed a meme bringing an empty chair into meetings so that people would be forced to think about the crucial participant who wasn’t in the room: the customer. Can you think of similar meme-inspired approaches that could act as burning platforms to spur collaboration, getting people positively addicted to it?

9. Consider Diversity as a Start

Diversity is the cornerstone of good collaboration, tapping into the complementary power of diverging views and perspectives for a stronger result. It helps to avoid getting involved in managerial wishful thinking. It acts as a sound counterbalance for selective perception, ego-involvement and ungrounded optimism. Yet diversity in itself is not enough. Diversity needs to result into a real collaboration culture, making sure diverse opinions and backgrounds blend and are translated into meaningful actions. A strong collaboration culture is one in which the whole organization is immersed into collaborative thinking and acting, horizontally and vertically. Ultimately, the organization of the future will thrive on ecosystems of collaboration, minimizing waste, recycling output and being self-sustainable, with various crowds of people being available on demand or providing input without even being asked for it.

Diversity is the cornerstone of good collaboration. @KristofDeWulf

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10. Find the Right Beat

At the end of the day, collaboration needs to deliver against business KPIs such as protecting margins, driving market share and loyalty and boosting innovation. Make sure your collaborative efforts are in sync with real and important business needs and that they follow the rhythm of the business instead of the other way round. Try to embed collaborative thinking in existing workflows and projects, making it part of your daily business reality and actions. Think of collaboration as a strategic organizational capability through which you can support everyday decisions and guide strategic choices. A ‘one size fits all’ approach does not work here: your CEO might get the best inspiration from occasional speed-dating with users, while R&D people could achieve the best results from having customers or suppliers participate in multi-disciplinary working groups, exactly the same way in-house strategists and R&D managers do.

It is often said that people do not like change. But maybe it is just that we do not pay sufficient attention to creating the necessary conditions for change. It takes time to train our brain: people can only turn new behavior into a habit after executing the new behavior at least 21 times in a row. While establishing a collaborative culture is a disruptive move for most companies, are we paying enough attention to respecting the 10 rules I’ve listed? I am interested in learning more about your personal experiences and I challenge you to add more rules to avoiding a collaboration hangover. Let’s build a better collaborative future together!


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Copyright: hxdbzxy / 123RF Stock Photo

Kristof De Wulf started his career at Vlerick Business School, obtaining a PhD in Applied Economic Sciences from Ghent University and later becoming Associate Marketing Professor and Partner at Vlerick Business School. Together with 3 Vlerick colleagues, Kristof co-founded InSites Consulting in 1997, acting as CEO of the company since 2012, providing strategic direction and energy to more than 130 team members in New York, London, Rotterdam, Ghent and Timisoara. With over 20 years of relevant experience with world leading FMCG brands, Kristof helps global brands to unlock the consulting potential that resides in ‘ordinary’ consumers. Kristof has published numerous articles in A-rated journals such as Journal of Marketing, International Journal of Research in Marketing, Journal of Retailing, Journal of Business Research, International Marketing Review, Services Management, Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, Journal of Business Ethics, etc. He is co-author of the book ‘The Consumer Consulting Board’, has been awarded with the MOAward for Agency Researcher of the year 2010, and is a regular speaker at various research and marketing events worldwide. He is included in ‘The Ultimate List of Social CEOs on Twitter’, just a few places behind Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch ☺.

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