The Power of Collaboration

kelly shibari collaborationI write on a fairly regular basis about the power of social media and how it’s really changed the landscape of how people do business these days. Unfortunately, I still see a lot of people still practicing old-school methods — methods that, unfortunately, are archaic and just do not net the results they used to. So I’m going to try to be a little clearer this time to wrap up this little series about the power of collaboration.

The Old-School Method

  • One person at the top of the heap, with “minions” running around doing a lot of the work
  • A pyramid-like structure where the person at the top gets the credit for the work of many
  • The inability for the person at the top to regularly acknowledge the people helping
  • The “join me and you’ll become famous/rich/popular” approach to hiring
  • A dictatorship approach to business

The New-School Method

  • A few people at the top, managing but not owning different “wings” of an organization
  • A less structured setup where many get the credit for the successes and failures of projects
  • Regular public acknowledgement of mentors, collaborators, and other outside sources
  • A more “what can you do to help me, and what can I do to help you” approach to hiring
  • An egalitarian approach to business

Don’t get me wrong. Businesses still need CEOs. But you’re seeing that the successful ones are the ones that have a group of people collaborating and sharing ideas, tactics, game plans and strategies before implementation. Historically, you’ve seen this with politics and government as well. The ones that run on a dictatorship model most always fail. It’s the ones that encourage the participation of the many, and acknowledge their participation, that thrive and succeed over time.

So why do some companies still operate under the old-school method? It’s probably because of two main issues: the fear of change and the fear of admitting weaknesses and insecurities. After all, why change something that isn’t broken?

The thing is, it is broken. In an environment of social media, social networking, and real-time marketing, a dictatorship model just doesn’t work. It not only takes too much time, but there is just no way for a single person to know what is going on in the universe and react/adapt to it in real time. The universe is just too big, and changing too quickly, for that to be a reality.

The other issue is weakness and insecurity. So many people (especially now due to the recession and unemployment) are starting new businesses for the first time are shaky — and they’ve never done this before. They’re worried that they’ll make mistakes. Not only that, but they’re worried that if they bring in someone that is better at something then they are, they’ll look the fool. They’re worried that if they look like they don’t know what they’re doing, then either someone else will come in and take their place, make them look like a hack, or worse, a failure. That fear drives a lot of people into dictatorship positions – after all, if no one knows what’s going on behind the curtain, then they don’t run the risk of being found out. It’s the Wizard of Oz syndrome – there is a constant fear that should someone pull the curtain, all you see is a small wrinkled man who happened to fall from a hot air balloon and just tried to make the best of the situation.

The thing is, in this day and age, if you’re not willing to collaborate and invite the input and ideas of the people around you, you’re just not going to succeed. Not only that, if you’re not willing to admit publicly their contribution to your success, then you are doomed to fail. Not only must you look to see where you can help others, but also be willing to admit your shortcomings and invite people into your organization that can ultimately help it succeed. The time for the self-centered, narcissistic business model is, if not over already, on its way out.

Take a look at your organization. Are you sitting pretty while everyone does the work? Are you taking the credit for all of their hard work? Or are you taking the time to publicly thank them? Are you claiming to be the king of the hill and feeding your ego by making sure that everyone around you knows that? Or are you regularly admitting to your shortcomings (because everyone has them) and inviting people to contribute? Are you, god forbid, telling people that without you they’re nothing and that they would never succeed? Or are you going out of your way to see how you can help them with their goals as well? Are you sharing in the successes and failures of not only your organization but those of the people that have helped you?

Come down off the perch. Join the common folk. After all, we’ve got all sorts of ideas…and we’re the ones with the ability to buy, promote, and celebrate your product.

Help and be helped. Think “What can I do for them?” as well as “What can they do for me?”

You’ll be thankful that you did.