One of the best things about contemporary analytics tools is that they enable teams of data scientists and other decision makers to brainstorm about business challenges that companies face and identify approaches for solving them.
For example, maybe a big box retailer has experienced a drop in sales for a particular set of stores or across specific categories. Well, data scientists and business leaders can use analytics tools to identify the likely causes for the drop-off as well as approaches for improving sales.
The beauty of collaboration is that individuals offer different perspectives and ways of attacking problems. Sometimes internal debates can lead to vicious arguments when people feel passionately about particular positions. Still, collaboration can bring great results when intelligent, even-handed executives are charged with making the best decisions based on the input that’s been presented to them.
While this kind of teamwork sounds great in theory, unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out in the real world. As Forbes contributor Ron Ashkenas points out in a recent blog post, one of the ways that teams typically react to group challenges is through “cooperation.”
Under this scenario, each person develops and implements his own plan and then shares what he’s doing with the group. While there’s some degree of joint dialogue, “the focus is still on individual actions rather than a collective strategy,” Ashkenas says. Each member of the team – or subgroups if the teams are large enough – often takes a different approach to solving a shared challenge.
Let’s say an automaker is looking to increase sales by 5% for a particular quarter. Through the use of analytics, one dealership might determine that it makes sense to create a set of sales incentives for recent college graduates or members of the military. Another dealership, however, might see the benefit of creating trade-in offers for owners or lessees of vehicles of rival car makers. Each approach is aimed at achieving a similar result – lifting sales – but the dealerships use different tactics. This is hardly a collaborative effort.
While different approaches to fostering collaboration tend to work well depending on the organization’s cultural fit, here are four styles that can help any company:
- Champion collaboration. It’s critical to have senior leadership regularly and openly communicate the value and importance of collaboration. This includes highlighting how constructive debate can yield fresh ideas and more effective ways to solve problems. Tangible examples and storytelling are great ways to emphasize this.
- Agree to disagree. It isn’t collaboration if team members all nod their heads in agreement when a senior executive presents an idea. Even if it’s a solid idea, it should be dissected and turned on its side to explore possible cracks and ensure that it’s the best available method.
- Disregard chain of command. To truly promote a culture of open dialogue, people must believe they can speak freely without fear of retribution. Company leaders aren’t looking for “yes” men or women. They want people who stand behind their convictions and offer the organization alternative views to help shape multi-dimensional decision making.
- Make it fun. Strategic projects are serious stuff. Still, it’s important to inject some humor into project meetings and keep the mood loose. A bit of levity will go a long way to keeping the project team fresh and help strengthen the bond among its members.
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