Now You’re Cookin’: Achieve Greater Business Results With Collaboration

Anthony Leaper

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of participating in an interactive corporate cooking event sponsored by a fantastic company called Aveqia.

The organization’s tagline is “Connecting through gastronomy,” and the company’s website says that the Aveqia experience can help participants – mainly professionals at local businesses – “develop relationships with clients, partners, project teams, or internal staff.”

In my case, I visited Aveqia’s London location to discuss workforce transformation with around 40 of my peers. After several effective ice-breaking activities and an hour-and-a-half discussion on the topic at hand, we were ready for the day’s main event: preparing a four-course, restaurant-style, gourmet meal.

Making a meal of collaboration

The 40 of us were first divided into four groups of 10. Each group was responsible for a specific portion of the meal: salad, appetizer, main course, and dessert. While we had a handful of professional chefs around to assist and supervise us, we took on a bulk of the responsibilities ourselves.

The first thing my group did was an assessment of our individual strengths and weaknesses in the kitchen. We surveyed one another on our varying levels of skill:

  • Who thinks they can’t even peel a potato?
  • Can anyone boil an egg properly?
  • Does anyone know the difference between boiling and simmering?

Once we differentiated our prep cooks from our sous chefs, we started cooking.

So we preheated the ovens, measured the ingredients, and chopped the vegetables. We greased the pans, seared the meat, and seasoned everything just right. By the end of it all, the 40 of us – many of us strangers merely hours before – had collaborated on preparing an impressive four-course, restaurant-style, gourmet meal.

Best of all – and, honestly, quite surprisingly – it was delicious.

From the kitchen to the office

Had you asked me before we started cooking what the likelihood of turning out anything remarkable would be, I would have set the chances at zero. But the results were truly incredible, and I largely chalk that up to the power of collaboration.

This experience was a wonderful, real-world example of what people can achieve by combining their various backgrounds and levels of skills and expertise. Throughout the activity, we all helped one another tremendously, providing hands-on assistance or giving advice on whether or not an item had been cooked thoroughly enough.

To succeed in today’s increasingly complex business world, this same type of collaboration is crucial. Specifically, your enterprise needs two primary components in order to get the most from your collaborative efforts:

  1. A leader to manage your collaboration group: This individual facilitates action, helps identify and assign roles and responsibilities, and ensures that the team meets its objectives and delivers what it promises. During the Aveqia experience, this role was covered by the professional chefs on hand, who kept their watchful eyes over their pupils, instructing us, encouraging us, and most importantly, putting us in the best position to succeed.
  1. A team of individuals with diverse professional backgrounds and areas of expertise: By merely collaborating, these employees would be sharing their knowledge and passing on essential skills to their colleagues through social learning. Although no one outside of the professional chefs was particularly skilled in the kitchen on the day of the Aveqia event, we succeeded in our objective to prepare a quality meal by combining our capabilities and leaning on the strengths of others within the group.

Don’t confuse communication with collaboration

In a recent blog, Richard Millington covered the stark differences between communication and collaboration, which many people tend to confuse. He makes the argument that “[y]ou might be talking to your team often, sharing lots of information, giving lots of opinions, co-working on Google Docs, and not collaborating well at all.”

That’s because successful collaboration revolves around – as stated above – assembling the right team of individuals, selecting a leader to supervise the team, focusing participants’ attention on the right information and desired outcome, and divvying up the tasks appropriately.

Without taking those steps, you’re merely communicating and “ensuring everyone is involved in as many different tasks as possible.”

According to Millington, that’s the “exact opposite approach to … great collaboration.”

Collaboration requires the right ingredients

Just like a good meal, collaboration requires the right ingredients. Combine a strong leader and capable team with powerful social collaboration tools, and the value you could add to your business is limitless.

In fact, according to a 2016 study by Forrester Consulting, collaboration can radically transform your organization, enabling you to:

  • Improve win rates and accelerate close rates for sales cycles
  • Speed up new employees’ onboarding time
  • Better educate employees, so they can provide a superior customer experience
  • Enhance overall operations and business processes

Through social collaboration tools, specifically, employees can increase productivity by 15%, translating to more than $17.6 million in company-wide gains.

So the statistics surely back up the power of collaboration.

When a group of like-minded individuals with different strengths are motivated and focused on the right information and common objective, they inspire the best contributions from one another, and the overall team can accomplish so much more!

Now it’s time for you to find out for yourself. Follow the tips above and discover firsthand how putting collaboration at the core of your business can positively impact your organization.

For more strategies to build collaboration at your organization, see The Simple Secret To A High-Performing Team.

If you’re planning on attending the Gartner Digital Workplace Summit London on September 21–22, 2016, stop by my session “Fundamentally Changing the Way a Company Works – Using Social Collaboration” on September 21 from 11:45 – 12:15 p.m. in Room Westminster C, Level 3.

About Anthony Leaper

Anthony Leaper is senior vice president of the Enterprise Social Software Business Unit at SAP. He is responsible for worldwide business development of SAP Jam social software. Anthony is focused on developing market opportunities for social collaboration platforms that enables SAP customers to connect more with their customers, partners, and employees through digital, socially inspired, interaction models.