Do we need to better incentivise collaboration?

As the world becomes ever more interconnected, shouldn’t our workplaces mirror the same behaviour?

It also seems to me that most things are made better when a diverse range of views are considered.

Despite having a huge array of tools at our disposal to organise and communicate, many of our working practices are still designed to stay firmly inside the boundaries of a team or service.

I suspect this is a hangover from the Industrial Age where work was predictable and could be efficiently tackled through division of work/labour.

The modern workplace doesn’t feel all that predictable anymore, and in the places that it is… shouldn’t we automate that stuff?

What is collaboration anyway? Here’s my current definition…

Good collaboration is where two or more people with strong but loosely held opinions come together to achieve a common goal. If any participant is unwilling to learn or give, it’s not collaboration.

So, how might we incentivise collaboration?

  • Stop grouping people by profession, start organising people around the needs of your customer/user. (Aka multi-disciplinary teams)
  • Stop solely measuring individuals on action & effort, start focusing on outcomes that directly link to a better service for the user/customer.
  • Recognise & reward people who work outside the hierarchy (… perhaps outside the organisation even!) to connect the dots between seemingly disparate people, groups or things to solve problems.
  • Transparency & openness! If we want to invite people to work with us, we’ve got to be clear about what problem we think we’re solving and what we’ve done to try and tackle it.

This is a work in progress. Thoughts, comments and dissenting views welcome. 🙂


I’ve posted this on Twitter too. I’ll summarise any feedback here…

Good point from Mark. Incentive often implies financial reward. I was racking my brain to think of incentives that are non-financial. Being paid for doing a good job isn’t inherently a bad thing.. but take the point that when you link money to something as a motivator, there are potentially unintended consequences or attempts to game the system.

Louise Cato made an excellent point in this comment that not all incentives have to be monetary. If you follow the thread, you’ll see we had an interesting chat about ways in which an employer could offer incentives that are lifestyle related. That are unique and personalised to the individual which provide happiness and fulfillment.

You can have incentives that are more lifestyle related, and therefore more personal.
Or just good old feedback and recognition, but genuine feedback and recognition – like sponsorship of their efforts and…

Stephanie Cole makes some interesting points in terms of defining what an incentive looks like to her as someone who works in the voluntary and community sector.

I liked this bit in particular..

My view of incentive through this lens is around taking away people’s worry that they’ll be told off for collaborating. The incentives might then be more relaxed and happy staff, better use and sharing of resources, improving the lives of shared beneficiaries, more interesting jobs, and less energy wasted competing.

Interestingly, I didn’t even think of money when reading ‘incentivise’.
It might be partly because I don’t work in a world (the voluntary and community sector) that uses incentives in this…

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