Collaboration isn’t a result, it’s a process

Office-Politics 700

“Human populations are both highly cooperative and highly organised. Human interactions are not random but rather are structured in social networks. Importantly, ties in these networks often are dynamic, changing in response to the behaviour of one’s social partners”, begins ‘Dynamic social networks promote cooperation in experiments with humans’, a paper by Rand, Arbesman, Christakis.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences paper suggests that people can respond to the co-operation and defection of those around them by making or breaking network links. This concept is also true within a workspace environment where co-operation is key to productivity and ultimately profitability.

The results of the report suggest that “cooperation decays over time when social networks are shuffled randomly”, but also “when networks are dynamic but are updated only infrequently, cooperation again fails”. So in order to develop sustainable and trustful collaboration in the workplace we must not compel relationships to be fixed but neither force them to continuously change.

When subjects can update their network connections frequently, co-operation is maintained at a high level through network “rewiring”. The study suggests “subjects preferentially break links with defectors and form new links with co-operators, creating an incentive to cooperate and leading to substantial changes in network structure”.

Through my work as a collaboration specialist for Connecting Perspectives, I have found several methods to develop sustainable organisational collaboration. Tools such as desk rotation, job shadowing, or cross-department projects, allow management to ensure their workplace social networks are dynamic and change frequently enough to maximise co-operation.

The key is finding the ideal balance between network stability and change in the workplace. Through our leadership and management courses we facilitate organisational development by enabling businesses to foster collaboration in the long-term.

Collaboration isn’t a result, it’s a process.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse: