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Working the Future blog: our latest insights and future of work sensemaking

COLLABORATION: TOGETHER IS MOST DEFINITELY BETTER

2019-12-02 15:39

Cathryn Barnard

Blog, FUTURE OF WORK CONSULTING, TALENT ECOSYSTEM, COLLABORATION,

COLLABORATION: TOGETHER IS MOST DEFINITELY BETTER

Last month I read The Third Wave by the former CEO of AOL, Steve Case. It’s both memoire and an overview of the opportunities presented by 5G and the...

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Last month I read The Third Wave by the former CEO of AOL, Steve Case. It’s both memoire and an overview of the opportunities presented by 5G and the Internet of Things. 
 

All interesting stuff, but what struck me most about the book was how he described the launch of the internet in the 1980s and 1990s.   Some of you won’t remember the pre-Internet days, but as someone who worked for a long time in the telecoms engineering world, I witnessed the arrival of the commercial internet with intense fascination. 
 

What I’d not appreciated until now, however, was the extent of collaboration required to make the Internet available to all.   
 

Case made emphatically clear throughout his book, that the Internet could not have launched without its key players embracing a partnership approach. He went as far to contrast this with the approach of many of the ’Web 2.0’ companies that dominate the internet today. Companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple have operated far more independently, without partnerships and wider industry collaboration. 
 

This got me thinking. As we approach a new decade, Case’s observation that many modern businesses operate in silos has struck a chord. 
 

When I began my recruitment career in the 1990s, business was way more collaborative. All newly awarded mobile network licence holders were consortia of pre-existing telecommunications companies, partnering to share both risk and reward, and of course the collective intelligence of diverse but highly skilled telecoms engineers. 
 

Back then, knowing no different, I thought this was normal. I grew up in a landscape where supplier relationships were true partnerships, and where both parties recognised the importance and value of one another for wider commercial success.
 

My, how things have changed... 
 

In 2019, true partnerships and collaboration are scarce. Business relationships are way more transactional, and pricing-oriented. Service levels often seem little more than a means by which to pass blame and default on payments. 
 

In the world of workforce-planning, the area I know best, this explains why so much of recruitment is broken. Staffing has become a largely commoditised service, with overarching focus on ’cost-per-hire’. This leaves way too many job-seekers with an entirely dehumanised experience. Trust, the bedrock of partnership and collaboration, is non-existent. 
 

And yet we’re already operating in far more complex and ambiguous commercial territories. To overcome the global environmental, social, economic and political challenges we face, we can’t continue to exist in silos. 
 

Trust and mutual respect are key essentials for effective partnership and collaboration. They are intangibles that all too often, are only notable by their absence. Tragically, our current culture breeds and feeds a scarcity mindset, predicated on ’win-lose’. We only have to look to present day political rhetoric to see this in action. 
 

Trust is critical for successful navigation through volatile and uncertain commercial landscapes. For talent ecosystems to thrive, we must lay ourselves open to the possibility that we might get let down, yet know that open-hearted communication and relationship-building is the right approach, to create new ways of working and being in the world. We must allow ourselves to be vulnerable. 
 

There is just no way we can overcome the complexities of modern business if we continue to try and operate in hierarchies. Or if we try and conceal our agendas. Siloed thinking won’t serve us moving forward. 
 

As we move into a new decade, the challenges we face in business, and beyond, are unprecedented. My belief however in the power and potential of collaboration, of what we can achieve when we unite around a common goal, gives me hope that we can solve any problems we put our collective minds to. 

 

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Looking to dive deeper into some of the areas covered in this blog post? Check out our Recruitment and Retention and Foresight Focus reports and products.

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