Bee wisdom

In part two of this blog series, we explore why collaborative teams innovate better, experience higher levels of morale and, as a result, productivity. Discover lessons from the behaviour of bees.

Fallon Cryer

Not only have bees been recognized as the most important living beings on Earth, they are experts in communication, collaboration and adaptation.

In this blog series, we explore a few key lessons we can learn from bees.

Check out other blogs in the series: Lesson One: Communicate

Lesson Two: Collaborate

When it comes to bees, rarely do we speak of them as a singular form. While each bee makes an individual contribution, their goal is for the common good—the future of the colony.

Each colony is a perfectly organized social structure where everyone has a task and all tasks are synchronized.

As humans, we live in an illusion of individualism, as we make our personal choices about the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the media we consume— it’s easy to forget where that came from. Not matter how accomplished an individual is, humans are not self-sufficient; we are social animals that truly depend on others. Often, others that we will never meet.

In business, there are lots of entrepreneurs with great ideas who can’t execute. No one can do everything on their own. Collaboration is every organizations opportunity to go from good, to great.

Collaboration is more than simply “working together”

Collaboration is a process by which teams work across disciplines to share knowledge, foster innovation and really—to get stuff done.

It’s about each individual contributing value in a way that cohesively fits with others to produce a successful outcome. In modern business, it also increasingly means using team collaboration tools: software solutions that help you, chat, meet and collaborate in real time, from anywhere.

Collaboration is powerful

A 2014 Stanford study found that simply feeling like you’re part of a team of people working on a task makes people more motivated as they take on challenges.

Participants in the research who were instructed to act collaboratively stayed on task 64% longer than their individual peers, whilst also reporting higher engagement levels, lower fatigue levels and a higher success rate.

Even the perception of working together can boost performance. However, it’s not enough. Even the most collaborative of cultures isn’t destined for success.

Another study found that companies that promoted collaborative working were 5 times more likely to be high performing. However, of the 1,100 companies surveyed (many who claimed to have collaborative cultures), only a small minority managed to achieve good business results.

For those organizations that that achieved strong business results through collaboration, the essential component was being purpose driven.

In that sense, we have that in common with bees. In its lifetime, a bee will make only 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey. A fraction of what the colony needs to survive. She works tirelessly, even though she will never personally benefit from her work.

Bees are highly effective for many reasons, some of which are: they have a shared purpose, defined roles, they work for the greater good and they share all information freely and rapidly.

What can you do, as an individual to make a real difference and where should you start?

Habits to aspire to

BE GENEROUS
Modern business is plagued by the quid pro quo approach. Share your expertise and time freely. In the words of motivational speaker Les Brown, “help others achieve their dream and you will achieve yours”.

COMMUNICATE PURPOSE & GOALS
People need to know why they are needed, why the project exists, what it means to your organization and how to achieve the desired outcome.

“When each team member understands the purpose and goals associated with their team, they can more effectively visualize what they can offer related to that purpose,” says Murray Newlands in his Forbes article.

Defining a shared purpose can also help resolve conflict, by refocusing the team on what needs to get done.

DEFINE ROLES
Every person on a team contributes specific strengths. Collaborating means bringing these strengths to the forefront to make something better than someone could do alone. This works best when each contributor knows how they are needed.

Don’t just leave them to figure it out amongst themselves. Provide a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. When working on a project, assignments should happen at the task level. Establishing expectations and roles is critical to avoid creating a team that is confused and conflicted.

EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY The world has changed, so you need to as well. Collaborative work has increased by 50% and takes up almost 80% of our time. Additionally, modern business is multi-national, with remote and flexible work policies. According to a study commissioned by Freelancers Union & Upwork, remote and freelance work is accelerating. 42% of U.S. Workers spend at least 60% of their time working remotely. It’s expected that by 2027 the majority of U.S. workers will freelance. New generations for workers are bringing new expectations and preferences for collaboration and communication.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, 72% of companies are investing in social tools, with the intention of powering highly collaborative teams. However, for technology to work, humans need to adopt it and be engaged in it’s use.

Living out of email and struggling with version control on shared documents will not allow you to be competitive in the new world of work.

Take responsibility for being an early adopter of technology and enjoy the benefit of improved productivity by helping your team work together more effectively.

Bonus Tips for Managers

Play to Strengths
Humans are amazing and unique; with different personalities, experiences, strengths, weaknesses, ideas and ways of working. As a leader, make it your business to identify what people are good at, and what motivates them. Set them up for success by pairing them with roles and projects that play to their strengths.

Remember: just because someone is good at something, doesn’t make it a strength. If they hate the task, it’s a weakness.

How you know it’s working:

Reduced costs
Working together and communicating openly, reduces organizational silos and duplication of effort which can be a costly drain on resources.

Stability
Collaboration between teams can be seen in seamless and proactive flow of information. When people have the information, they need to do their job and feel connected to a purpose, there is a strong possibility of employee retention. Also, use of collaboration technology can help ensure that employees don’t leave holding all the cards. When you build a culture that encourages open knowledge sharing, employees continue to contribute to the greater good—long after they have left—through their useful artefacts.

Timely delivery
Collaborative teams are more effective and more likely to deliver projects on time and within budget. Solutions to complex problems are often more innovative.

Employee Engagement Increase
Collaboration makes employees more productive and creative. It helps people feel connected to their work and their colleagues. It makes happier people and more effective teams.

Collaboration relies on the fact that, together, we are better than when we’re working alone.

If you’d like to discuss how beedance can help you foster a culture of collaboration in your organization. Contact us today.

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