Dear HR, do you think you have a Collaborative Advantage?

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Collaborative Advantage – have you heard this term?

About two decades ago, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, an eminent scholar at the Harvard Business School, coined the phrase “Collaborative Advantage” in a very thought-provoking and influential article. She argued that instead of focusing too much on their competitive advantage, businesses should begin focusing on their collaborative advantage. While organizations depend on their partners to create a collaborative advantage, most of them approach this issue with a transactional approach rather than a relational approach.

As organizations grow, there will always be a proliferation in the number of teams. This will often stymie efforts at fostering ambidexterity within organizations. Leaders need to find a modus operandi to breakdown this tribal instinct and foster collaboration among teams.

Adding up to this, at Rise Above 2020, we had Baba Shiv, Professor of Marketing at Stanford University, share his thoughts and experiences on tribal instincts, how to break down these instincts and thereby, create an environment where organizational talent can make 1 + 1 = 4.

Here are a few highlights from Baba Shiv’s insight-rich session, edited for clarity:

– “Organizations need to start adopting a collaborative approach, which is grounded in trust. At the end of the day, it is not about your competitive advantage alone. It’s not about the problem you’re trying to solve alone. It is also about how you’re managing your dependencies through a collaborative approach and thereby create a collaborative advantage.”

– “One of the major problems in organizations is based on the fact that humans are inherently tribal in nature. So as an organization begins to grow, two things will happen and should happen. Firstly, everything has to start getting geared towards efficiency and execution. I mean, that’s why you’re putting in KPIs, processing systems, and so on. Secondly, everything has to start getting geared towards specialization. You’ll have specialists in accounting, marketing, operations and so on. This will give rise to a proliferation in the number of tribes within the organization. They’re not really silos, but actually tribes, with their own unique social norms and values. This proliferation of tribes will give rise to the us-versus-them kind of instinct.”

– “One of the things that I look for in organizations is if they are creating formal and informal opportunities for the intermingling of tracks. For example, if you go to Amazon, they have the two-pizza rule for effective meetings. The idea that Jeff Bezos says is that if there is a meeting that includes more people than can consume two pizzas, that team is going to become dysfunctional. That’s the basic idea. People from different tribes just come together and discuss anything under the sun. It breaks down these tribal instincts because now you are interacting and working towards a common goal and also by identifying the common grounds out there.”

Are you curious to know more about Baba Shiv’s thoughts? Watch him in an exclusive on-demand video as he unravels the underlying dynamics involved in creating a collaborative advantage for your HR function.


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