“Thinking collaboratively is not new. What is new is the increasing complexity of information flow in organisations that calls for high levels of engagement, innovation and collective problem-solving” (Bruce Wellman)
The business intelligence context for almost every type of business has changed dramatically in the past couple of decades – the transformation of roles which previously just required employee’s hands and feet to roles which now also encompass the hearts and minds of staff. In banking, for example, employees previously “sold” money security at a competitive interest rate, but are now expected to be wealth consultants. In the retail and similar industries, employees previously sold products, but are now taught to sell solutions. Previously, architects sold house or business plans, but now sell spatial application, ambience and style. Broadcasters previously sold schedules and content, but now sell emotion, entertainment and experience. Hairdressers gave us haircuts in the past, but now enhance our self-image profiles. The lists of nuanced changes are numerous and they are not just representative of new marketing techniques. They are, in fact, partly representative of more demanding customer expectation, but more probably and maybe more significantly representative of the acceleration of meaningful information in the digital age in which we live. Employees are no longer “ignorant” in these matters and many spend countless hours researching a plethora of topics which directly relate to business intelligence.
The challenge for business is to tap into this combined “intelligence” and to use it appropriately to leverage strategy, systems, processes and communication with customers. Engaging with employees at all levels is the new “now” in business and this requires leadership skills of the highest degree. These skills include the following attitudes, principles and behaviours:
- Everyone has something of value to offer – a manager recognises the value in everyone’s contribution and that no idea is necessarily “bad”.
- The manager has limited knowledge – it is impossible to know everything and many have much more wisdom and understanding than the manager. Tap into this knowledge.
- The manager is not prescriptive – manager “arrogance” doesn’t wash. Prescription flies in the face of collaboration.
- The manager captures and reflects emotion as well as content – not all ideas are sterile and devoid of emotion. Many ideas speak to passion and vision – reflect this emotion in your communication.
- The manager listens intently and reflects accurately – respect will be garnered through listening to detail and giving accurate feedback. Giving complete feedback makes employees feel acknowledged and valued.
- The manager knows when to take the collaboration to the next step to a call for action – this could be in the form of additional research, pilot projects, further collaboration, etc. The point of collaboration is to translate ideas into reality eventually.
- The manager holds people accountable – this keeps the project on track and gives people hope that they are part of something that will translate into something better.
Companies need leaders to capture business intelligence – managers who have the ability to harness the collective knowledge from a diversity of employee backgrounds and skills and channel the intelligence into sound business applications. These managers understand collaboration.