In survey after survey, leaders say how important collaboration is to organizational success. And it should be even more so now, given the general economic and specific industry changes we are all facing. But knowing collaboration is important isn’t the same as knowing how to collaborate.

Human Collaboration Requires A Human Approach

You already hear a lot about collaboration thanks to the dramatic shifts in how we work in the aftermath of the pandemic. Technology vendors want to sell you solutions that they say will enhance your capacity for collaboration. And while it’s true that collaboration technology needs a reboot and many of these tools can help, the biggest barriers to collaboration aren’t technology problems — they’re human ones. You can’t improve collaboration by software acquisition, by decree, or even by merely offering incentives. You have to take a collaboration-by-design approach.

Collaboration by design starts with an understanding of the human factors that regulate people’s willingness to collaborate. Roger Schwarz observes in the book “Creating a Culture of Collaboration” that collaboration is often psychologically threatening because it requires us, among other things, to give up our preconceived ideas of what the solutions should be in order to find solutions that take full advantage of the collaboration itself.

Overcome Top Emotional And Psychological Barriers To Collaboration

In a new report, Your Collaboration Process Only Gets You Halfway There (client access required), my colleague Cheryl McKinnon and I illustrate the top emotional and psychological barriers to collaboration. The decisions of whether to collaborate, with whom, and how much stem from our experiences working with others in any walk of life. Questions employees ask as they navigate their choices are: Will I lose my claim to unique knowledge and become less relevant? Will the leaders in my organization recognize the value of my contributions? Could I do a better job alone or with other collaborators? These are rational questions that have significant emotional weight.

In our report, clients can read the strategies we recommend to overcome collaboration barriers, respecting the emotional and rational decision processes of employees. Drawn from our interviews and research with collaboration leaders and experts across industries, our collaboration-by-design approach can kick-start your reevaluation of your culture, management processes, and individual contributor enablement with the goal of making it clear to would-be contributors that their most personally valuable option is increased collaboration.


Ready to have a conversation about how you can make collaboration by design a reality at your organization? Reach out through your Forrester account manager, and let’s collaborate!