More and more organizations are shifting from traditional hierarchal structures to flat structures with open workspaces to foster better collaboration and faster decision-making.

Employees want to contribute. People contributions must be heard and also respected.

Creating such an environment of respect and openess, entails the right type of leadership and rewarding and recognizing employees for their contribution.

A Shared Purpose helps employees see that the company’s success is their personal success.

According to Dr. Mark Bonchek  Founder of Shift Thinking, collaboration is the result of a company’s Shared Purpose unified across its brand and culture. Collaboration is a subset of  Shared Purpose.

Collaboration means working together, from the Latin col- (together) and laborare (working).

Working together to a common purpose to achieve business benefit.

Employees engaged in a common goal work better together.

If people know that everyone is on the same wavelength, they’re likely open up and share the next big idea and collaboration happens more freely.

Collaborative interactions will become a regular part of the dialogue, to foster collaboration, and allow it to grow and evolve naturally.

According to Rawn Shah,  a senior manager of Learning Architecture & Innovation at Adobe Systems and partner of the future of work focused social enterprise, Ethos U.K, to develop shared purpose, to bring more people together towards collective goals, organizations need to develop more individualism and decentralization.

Geert Hofstede, one of the pioneers of modeling the cultural framework of organizations, defined one dimension, “Individualism versus Collectivism” as how much people’s self-image in an organization are oriented towards “I” or “We”.  Shared Purpose by definition leans towards the “We” rather than the “I”.

The point is to understand how people in the organization orient themselves.

Would they do things that are better for those closest to them, or even just themselves?

Would they be willing to help a greater goal?

What and How much do they need to believe to do so?

 

It all boils down to culture and collaborative engagement.

According to Vineet Nayar, founder of the Sampark Foundation and author of Employees First, Customers Second, purpose is collaboration’s most unacknowledged success determinant.

While it can be taken for granted within families, that’s not true of most organizations.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work but rather, teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea,” pointed out Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the French writer and aviator, who wrote The Little Prince. 

Collaboration is in the culture, not in the technology.

Yet, companies and executives spend endless amounts of time and money trying to foster collaboration through technology, training, and memos instead of quickly defining the problem, framing the challenges, and inspiring people to come together and tackle it.

People need an environment of inclusiveness and respect to collaborate.  

Collaboration is effective only if goals are evident reinforced by an overarching purpose; they could see how their collaboration would benefit a cause larger than that of any individual:

What problem are we trying to solve together?

What can we do to solve this collectively?


To launch shared purpose, begins with the questions:

  • Why do we exist?
  • What are the values that will govern how we interact with each other?
  • What are the principles by which we will make decisions?
  • What is our vision for the future?
  • What is the description of our graduates?

Having a stronger sense of shared purpose reduces systemic frustrations people have with organizations. They are clearer on their priorities. They feel less pain in decision-making and internal politics.

That shared purpose of “empowering ownership of learning and success” is supported by eight values (or elements) of performance-based learning, valuing stakeholders, resiliency, agility, shared leadership and responsibility, open and honest communication, continuous improvement and innovation, trust and teamwork.