Everyone wants to learn from innovation and win with it: one of its challenges is the ability to enter into collaborations. It is one of the outstanding competencies that will be in demand in the future. However, this is tied to a mindset and that is not so easy to have. Different views on this and steps to acquire them can help to shape cooperations successfully.
Ultimately, it is personal skills that lead the individual to act authentically in a cooperation-oriented manner – and also to reap the benefits. On August 30, 2021, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung reported on an experiment in which bosses practiced job rotation. This is a concept that has been known for a long time, but which has unjustly eked out a shadowy existence due to a lack of courage to implement it.
In the case described, the Swiss Customs Directorate and Caritas Germany adopted the idea. In both cases, the transfer to other jobs in other departments led to surprises: on the one hand, the store continued to run. This may not be a complete shock, since everyone has already experienced that the business can run without the bosses, for example, during vacations. But what was also more surprising was that there was a greater understanding of the competencies of the actual skilled workers – i.e. not the managers. And as a second gain, the “rotated” bosses realized that in the new environment they had more time for strategy instead of micromanagement. What more could you want for the new work environment?
This reporting lends itself to underscoring the importance of collaboration skills: the rotated bosses had to focus on the essentials, namely the outlook of where to go. This is exactly the starting point of a successful cooperation: it is about going with someone or a unit in a direction where it should just go.
Only cooperation makes this step possible. On its own, a company is often too small or simply has a different core competence. However, innovative or strategic thinking means that it must continue to develop simply in order to secure its existence. In the future, it will no longer be a matter of retaining, acquiring and maintaining specialist knowledge – even now, by the way – but of knowing how to add value to a company and thus expand its knowledge base. More impact is thus achieved through cooperation.
In a current competency radar, which is based on a survey of 200 SMEs in Germany and was funded as a research project by both the federal government and the EU (agilhybrid.de), the future competencies are summarized on the basis of the survey: still conventional and comprehensible seem to be the
- Entrepreneurial skills and the
- Digital Competency.
But then it continues with the
- Agile capability,
- the ability to change and
- Collaborative capability.
The trend is clearly for innovation to come from collaboration. In this context, a distinction is often made between cooperation and collaboration, whereby – to put it simply – in the case of collaboration, more distant teams or individuals tend to work together; in the rhetoric of war, this would be cooperating with the enemy. In fact, that’s how it’s done when companies also collaborate with competitors for new ideas in precisely circumscribed and defined spaces. In a narrower sense, the ability to cooperate in a team includes the characteristics of the individual team members that are needed to work together productively. What is of interest here are the factors that come before this: the mindsets and competencies that are needed to get the team working together in the first place.
The mindsets among employees
These can be initiated in a targeted manner: we grow through and with collaborations. In the following, we therefore list five conditions that are considered mind-sets for cooperation. Becoming aware of these means getting fit for the path to cooperation, change and innovation.
1. I choose – therefore i am
In the literal sense, cooperation also includes co-option. This means the chance that a cooperation also contains the desire to choose with whom one goes into cooperation. This is an unbelievably active moment, which has the magic of the new and ideally the power of the universe.
But cooperation is not only given as the choice of people and institutions that are available. To cooperate also means to purposefully benefit from the exchange of trust and creativity. With the emphasis on the exchange of giving and receiving, which of course includes advance performance. Connected with this, however, is also a freedom from fear of competition and others. The power of cooperation can also be illustrated as a steep thesis by visualizing how large companies were founded: Microsoft and Apple were founded jointly by two people at the beginning. In a weakened form, a weak substitute for energetic cooperation are the muses in art and the coaches for executives. These do not aim at cooperation, but at least at exchange. Here we speak of the consistent attitude: choose and win by going into cooperation.
2. Who am i?
It is good to know who one is before seeking cooperation. This also means knowing your personal operating system: how do I function, where do I locate myself, what do I need. This knowledge helps to recognize the goal of a cooperation and to strive for it authentically. This requires self-confidence and makes it clear that successful work is not only based on the separation of professional life and private person, but is interpenetrated. I am what I am. Which does not mean pursuing one’s own work-life balance and protecting one’s soul from overstimulation.
3. Who is my counterpart?
Here it is absolutely allowed to analyze: who or what do I already know? The good old network analysis (xing and linkedIn) help to visualize one’s own radius and where it can be expanded. Initial questions can be: who is my target group, in which direction do I want to develop, what interests me and my company, my department? And finally: who would be the contact persons? Intuition is important here on the one hand. To act against this and thus against one’s inner aspirations and feelings is forbidden. Unwilling to tackle something means it is better to leave it alone. So it must trigger positive feelings where one wants to go and who should be addressed.
Furthermore, it is important to analyze who could be the contact persons. People in high hierarchy can at best share ideas, but often refer to the levels further down. So it depends very much on whether one targets cooperation “above” or starts with executive persons or the so-called mid-management. It depends very much on the circumstances and on the sensitivity. Pure top-down cooperation often fails because it is not supported by the executors – and thus often makes no sense. The executive, concerned but with some decision-making authority, is often the good choice.
4. What is the vision?
Part of visualizing who you are is seeing what you could be together. Together we are stronger is not a motto for nothing. The condition here is the attitude that others also have good ideas. A concept of equality and learning from each other and from the exchange with each other is meant here.
It also requires the inner conviction that not every idea is good and that good ideas develop over time. The co-founder of the first idea workshop in Switzerland, Nadja Schnetzler, wrote in her book “Idea Machine” in 2005 that for every 500 ideas, there is one good one. This is relaxing and stimulating at the same time.
What is needed here is patience, time and long-suffering, to let things mature and to sense when something is ripe. Long-term cooperations are the meant target cooperations, not short-term ones. It is the same with trust. Trust is only given if there is the certainty that it is a long-term investment. And giving trust also means being able to wait.
And finally, anticipation must not be missing, which is often fed by good previous experience: who does not know the joy, the joyful clinking of champagne glasses – analog or virtual – when congratulating each other on a successful cooperation. THAT is the target vision.
5. Self-management as love of curiosity
The most important skill for the mindset of cooperation is curiosity: You have to want it. Taking pleasure in new things and in learning are the basic prerequisites for wanting to enter into a cooperation at all.
The enterprising and successful brand innovator Jean-Claude Biver was recently quoted in an interview in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung as saying that he always succeeds in transforming the burden of work into curiosity and passion. How true. And that brings us to another competence for successful cooperation: successful self-management.
This ability must be supplemented by the mindset of pursuing ideas even when there is a headwind, when they seem unrealizable and too utopian. A stop sign doesn’t mean that the idea is dead, but it can mean that a direction doesn’t fit or is wrong – and then there is another direction. Or a no-go sign can mean, the idea will come back later and then better, then it would be one of the 499 others. But it can also mean to pursue an idea for a (later) cooperation anyway and not always this has to be done openly and free for attacks, but this can also be a protected niche for the time being. This is also what the “big players” do when they outsource a new, possibly disruptive idea to a startup.
So the spirit makes the mindset of collaborations, be it external collaborations or internal collaborations.