A collaborative structure creates encouragement within a workplace to have different people working together to produce or create something. These structures may be incorporated in several different ways within the modern work environment.
- By creating shared work spaces where people are able to work together to achieve a common purpose.
- By offering software-based collaboration tools which allow people to work on specific files together simultaneously.
- By using communication tools that bring people together to discuss ideas, no matter where in the world they may be.
Collaborative structures can be synchronous or asynchronous. The first refers to structures which allow people to work and interact with one another in real-time situations. The latter is a structure which allows for time-shifted collaboration, allowing for annotations or contributions to be enhanced by each worker.
The only way for a collaborative structure to be successful is to have each person involved in the structure participate in it.
Here are some of the key advantages and disadvantages to consider when looking at the addition of collaborative structures to the modern workplace.
List of the Advantages of a Collaborative Structure
1. It provides a better division of labor.
When there are collaborative structures within the workplace, then the methods of work division tend to be improved. Having more people involved in the completion of tasks makes the work a little easier for everyone. This is especially important for employees who are frequently involved in large projects. By breaking up responsibilities into smaller portions, the work is done faster and better by everyone involved.
2. There is a higher level of creative input.
When collaboration is permitted in the workplace, then there is more creativity involved with every project. The company is able to tap into the different creative resources of each employee instead of relying on a single input resource with an individualized assignment. By collecting different ideas, new approaches can be brainstormed, which often leaders to greater innovation within the workplace.
3. It improves morale within the workplace.
When employees are able to use a collaborative structure in a positive way, then there is an improvement in workplace morale which occurs. Employees like to celebrate successes when they happen. Because there are more opportunities to work together, more successes can be celebrated. That creates a happier view of the working environment, creating positive relationships between co-workers. At the end of the day, collaboration builds trust when structures in the workplace allow it.
4. Balance is brought to the decision-making process.
When there are several different voices involved in the decision-making processes of the workplace, then a team has a better balance in its forward movement. It encourages cooperation and open-mindedness as each person gets to offer an opinion, while listening to the opinions of others. This process can slow down the response of a team when an immediate decision is required, but as a whole, the benefits of removing bias or partisanship within each decision tend to make collaboration a positive process.
5. It can improve delivery times.
Collaboration structures allow workers to focus on their strengths within each project. Because each worker is focused on their strengths, the quality of the work tends to be improved. Better quality work tends to need fewer reviews during the quality assurance process, which reduces corporate costs and improves delivery times. Over time, the cost of installing a collaborative structure tends to pay for itself because of the numerous ways it offers cost-savings opportunities to each business.
6. Corporate relationships are often improved.
Collaboration structures go beyond what happens internally with a business. Corporate collaboration creates a win/win situation for companies as well. Both organizations receive something for their efforts while each receives an improved standing within their industry. These relationships can foster better fundraising, better products, and more community influence with their branding.
7. It can resolve language or cultural differences.
Because of modern technology, there are fewer cultural and language differences which interfere with the collaborative process. Machine translations make it possible for almost every person to participate in a collaborative effort, no matter what their native language may be. Information management counters cultural differences which affected in-person collaboration efforts in the past. This allows businesses to benefit from more perspectives over time.
List of the Disadvantages of a Collaborative Structure
1. It encourages some workers to assume they have a leadership role.
When collaborative structures are in the workplace, there are more employees who may feel that they’ve been given a leadership position on a project. Multiple workers may feel the same way within the same project. That creates an issue where there are too many people trying to lead using their own ideas instead of trying to provide collaborative supports. Should this occur, tension tends to be created because everyone in a leadership position expects people to follow them, which doesn’t always happen.
2. There can be conflicts in working styles.
When different people with unique personalities are working together, there will be the eventual conflict in working styles discovered. Diversity does create some unique advantages which should not be ignored. That diversity can also hold up a project when some workers accomplish tasks in a way that is contrary to the method that others use.
3. It may create instances of group thinking.
When teams of people come together frequently to work on a project, they may trend toward the ideas offered by the strongest member of the team. Even when alternative ideas are proposed, group thinking occurs when a strong personality is able to convince everyone to continually follow their ideas. Collaborative structures cannot account for one persuasive person who consistently takes over discussions, supplants ideas, and forces personal outcomes by bringing a team to their point of view.
4. Some roles may seem ambiguous.
In a collaborative structure, it is not always possible to clearly define a role for each team member. When this occurs, there can be a certain level of apathy within the team that leads to slower results. Some team members may even attempt to enforce their ideas onto the rest of the group, even if their ideas were rejected initially by everyone else. Although this disadvantage tends to occur on larger teams more often than smaller teams, leaving a role undefined creates the potential for this issue to be seen in every business.
5. It may cost more than it is worth for some businesses.
Collaborative structures may be seen as a generally positive component of the modern workplace, but it is not always right for every business. Even with technology improvements, the cost of doing business through collaboration can be too high for small business budgets. When there are large numbers of employees involved in collaborative efforts, then there is a greater cost in facilitating meetings, working on files, and preparing presentations. In some instances, it may even cause some workers to spend more time away from their normal responsibilities, which slows down the business.
6. Collaborative structures can sometimes create conflict.
There may always be a certain level of disagreement within a team over the key points of a project. If those disagreements are based on specific ethics or morals, then collaboration may create more conflict in the working relationships than it resolves. When people feel like they have a moral conflict with someone, they are less likely to be open-minded about the proposed approaches of that person. That stalls productivity, which eventually affects the outcome of the work being done.
7. It may require a data connection which is not available.
Modern collaboration structures tend to involve cloud-based services and online resources. Although internet saturation levels are very high in the developed world, they are not at 100%. Rural businesses may find themselves struggling to access high-speed internet resources, which limits their ability to benefit from collaboration. Some businesses may not have any access to data. Even if the company would benefit from these structures, unless they are present, they cannot be used.
8. It may reduce personal interactions.
Because collaborative structures tend to feature online tools, the process of collaboration limits the number of personal interactions which occur. People work together through video conferencing, online file management, and other forms of information transfer. If the connections are poor or limited in speed, the lag time can reduce real-time results, which may negate some of the benefits that would normally be received with the implementation of this structure.
These collaborative structure advantages and disadvantages show that embracing diversity can lead to numerous benefits for any business. It also shows that without clear structures and definitions, some team members may take advantage of the desire for collaboration to enforce their own ideas at the expense of others. For that reason, each structure must encourage personal strengths, split responsibilities to appropriate parties, and encourage individual creativity to experience consistent benefits.