Wikipedia defines it as a process where two or more people or organizations work together to realize shared goals.
2012 is the International Year of Cooperatives. Cooperatives are collaborative by nature and act together to build a better world for their members and the community. Cooperatives are apparent in all sectors including banking – like credit unions – housing, agriculture, health and utilities.
But you don’t have to be a cooperative to collaborate.
Knowing the benefits of collaboration can provide a significant boost to your operations. Businesses are partnering with other like-minded organizations – or even competitors – to seize opportunities to benefit their bottom line and their community. Knowing who to partner with, and why, when, and how, is the key to success.
Employees who work for the same company should be working together anyway. But without a clear organizational culture that defines and encourages collaboration, attaining goals can be difficult.
Cooperatives share common principles of operation that serve as a sound foundation for collaboration. But even with shared values, collaboration with other cooperatives needs proper thought and planning. Organizations that don’t have commonalities or are competitors will find that getting to a level of trust is essential to create desired outcomes.
What are the benefits of collaboration? Here are just a few:
• Sharing resources. We are all trying to do more with less. Sharing resources is a great way to accomplish that goal.
Two small businesses might see the benefit of sharing accounting employees or a call center. One business may have excess IT capacity it would be willing to share/sell to those who cannot afford the latest technology.
By helping each other, costs are cut or contained and resources increased for mutual benefit.
• Increasing efficiencies. Two heads are better than one, right? By working with other businesses or within your own organization, collaboration invites multiple perspectives, which can lead to ideas for innovation, expanded markets or streamlined processes.
• Promoting community. Our view of “communities” has expanded and become very important, whether it’s within the organization or how we communicate with others or where we live.
By making your “community” a better place to live, work and play, you are contributing to a better way of life for your employees and customers. Raising money for a local nonprofit, cleaning up trash around the river or working with other organizations to offer basic life skills training are just a few examples of expanding your community.
The Kansas Credit Union Association works with credit unions, other associations and businesses to promote financial health to Kansans. For example, KCUA partners with Kansas credit unions and the State Treasurer’s office to offer Money$mart Camps to Kansas schools. All organizations supply the manpower and work on the curriculum together for a common goal: financial literacy.
What about collaboration inside your business? Do you encourage staff from different departments to work together on projects? Are they recognized for their efforts?
Team members gain knowledge about your company, products and projects, helping them to further understand your mission and values. Understanding roles of other departments, and the value each department brings to your company, helps you move your overall strategic plan forward more efficiently and effectively.
You don’t have to be a cooperative to enjoy the benefits of cooperation and collaboration. You just need to explore alternatives and the possibilities of what can be done by working together.