Global Marketing
Management Consultants
Global Marketing
Management Consultants
Global Marketing
Management Consultants

How can you collaborate more successfully?

This is a guest post from Shawn Callahan – Founder of Anecdote, a management consulting firm that uses its expertise in story to inspire enduring change.

Today we face an entirely new environment for innovation and getting things done. The days of the lone genius quietly toiling away in pursuit of that Eureka moment to revolutionise an industry are all but over.

We are now in the days of asking and listening to our customers and working with them in our innovation cycles. Innovation demands collaboration. So does production. In the past we could focus on a single task in an assembly-line fashion, handing our completed activity to the next person who would in turn do the same, until the job was finished. Now the jobs change fast, requiring learning new skills rather than merely repeating the old. We have to seek out people who have other pieces of the puzzle and work with them to tackle increasingly complex issues at a much faster pace.

Our experience tells us of certain factors for success in all three types of collaboration. That said we have also been surprised in cases where success factors were missing or even operated counter to our expectations, yet the collaboration was successful. So we offer these lists in the spirit of those things we believe are important, but they are neither definitive nor comprehensive. Our purpose is to provide an understanding of the type of culture required to support collaboration.


  • Common purpose or goal
  • An outcome that is valued
  • Pressure to deliver (a due date)
  • Complex problems that a single person could not resolve on their own
  • An explicit process for getting things done (no ESP required)
  • Clearly defined roles
  • Knowledge of each other’s work, communication and learning styles
  • An admiration of the skills and abilities of fellow team-mates
  • Enough resources to do the job but not so many that the team loses its resourcefulness
  • Regular social activities to build trust among team members.


  • A topic that members care about to a point where their identity is wrapped up in that topic
  • A community coordinator who can orchestrate activities, introductions and opportunities for learning
  • Regular social activities to build trust and new social connections among team members
  • Opportunities to practise and gain experience, or vicariously gain experience by hearing the stories of other practitioners
  • Leaders who see value in the community and at best encourage their staff to participate and at worst don’t discourage community participation
  • Strong executive sponsorship providing legitimacy, resources and a helping hand when things get political
  • A core group of community members that care about the group and provide direction and enthusiasm for its activities
  • A handful of members who are connectors, helping people find each other in the community
  • Regular meetings to help establish the community’s rhythm
  • Appreciation for the periphery, which may be silent but is learning and carrying community learnings out to the world
  • Members who belong to related communities, who bring in and take out ideas and information (pollinators and connectors).


  • Technology to store and retrieve information of interest which makes it immediately findable to everyone in the network
  • An appreciation of how effective use of social technology, such as bookmarking, will save time and assist team and community collaborations
  • Having diverse skills in the organisation— scanners, filterers, connectors—who help make sense of information and connections from the network and bring them back into the flow of organisational work. Not everyone has to do this, but enough people need to
  • A tolerance for a high volume of information—knowing that you can catch what you need from the flow, but you can’t drink the entire river
  • Ability to see connections across diverse signals and bits of information
  • Connections between teams, communities and their larger networks as sources of new ideas and members.

From a White Paper by Shawn Callahan, Mark Schenk and Nancy White. 

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    Shawn, Founder of Anecdote and author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire.

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