Collaborative cultures are learning environments. They are energizing, engaging, and in constant motion. They are self-perpetuating! Why?

In my forty-year career, I have worked in many cultures, but the most rewarding and most effective culture I have worked in or supported in the corporate or non-profit world, is an empowered, collaborative culture.

People are happier and more productive. They are committed to and engaged in the organization or community.

In a world and a time when success depends on an organization or community’s ability to inspire people to the fullest engagement, empowerment and collaboration is a must.

But, why is such a culture self-perpetuating?   Why does it motivate and inspire people to commitment and engagement? Compare two types of cultures—one in which trust and collaboration does not exist and one in which trust and collaboration is the foundation of an organizational culture.

In the absence of trust and collaboration:

  • People are afraid to make decisions on their own.
  • They are afraid to share with one another.
  • People’s ideas, thoughts, and knowledge are trapped within minds that do not feel safe to share them.
  • As a result, individual, team, and organizational learning is non-existent or compromised.
  • Innovation and creativity is non-existent. New ideas, processes, and problem-solving is nearly non-existent.
  • Unhealthy competition and team member conflict results.
  • People-actuation is non-existent in an era where maximizing potential is critical to success. Potential is trapped within self, most often not revealed or discovered.
  • There’s little team-orientation. It’s “every person for him or herself,” instead of people being interdependent on one-another for success.
  • In such a culture, it is impossible to empower people. It is impossible for people to collaborate.
  • Organizational learning is non-existent.

Now let’s look at a high-trust, collaborative culture where people are empowered to think for themselves:

  •  People feel safe to make decisions on their own as they know they are not going to be berated for making mistakes. They know learning and new, creative ways of doing business evolves from trying new things.   One cannot learn new ways of doing business or anything unless one is willing to take risks.
  • People feel safe to share their thoughts and ideas as they are not “afraid.” There is a culture of “team-orientation” where it’s about the “team,” not about the “boss.”
  • People feel valued for their uniqueness. They have been given a voice and feel comfortable speaking their minds.
  • Yet, there’s a spirit and culture of “helping one-another succeed” in order to help the team succeed.   It is a culture of people being equally interdependent on one another for success.
  • Unhealthy competition is non-existent because it is a culture of “team” and interdependency versus people fighting for their place in an environment filled with unhealthy conflict.
  • As a result, people are constantly learning from one another which spawns personal, team, and organizational growth and expansion. People-actuation can more easily evolve.
  • People feel empowered to make decisions quickly, and to seek help from the “team” or individuals if necessary to solve problems and take care of the customer.
  • There is rich inter-departmental and inter-team sharing and learning to generate new ideas and solve problems.
  • This process never stops. It results in a continuous cycle of self-, team-, and organizational learning and improvement.
  • It is self-perpetuating. It is evolutionary in that this is the type of culture in which innovation and creativity is spawned. New ideas on how to solve problems and take care of customers evolve. Processes, products and services, and relationships are constantly evolving and improved upon.

It is in this type of culture and environment that people are more committed and engaged because they “own it.” They have a voice and feel they are an important contributing member of the smaller team, and the organization as a whole. People matter and are “the most important” part of the organization.

Never has culture been as important as it is today.   And it is an “empowered,” “collaborative” culture that will define your success today and even more so in the next decade.

(c) Patricia Hatley.  All rights reserved.