Build a Collaboration Mindset

​Humans ​have relied on collaboration to survive throughout history. Over the past 200-300 years technology has made individual survival easier. Because of technological advances, humans have become more individualistic and less reliant on collaboration for survival. ​

​Research suggests, however, that we're ​reaching the limits of individualism. ​Connectivity beats division. Communities are stronger than individuals. And collaboration often beats competition.Collaborative advantage is the way of the future. ​

In my book, Future-Ready Leadership: Strategies for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, I devote an entire chapter to collaboration and ​​provide ​practical tools for building collaboration skills. My research on building future-ready organizations consistently shows that smart collaboration is an essential requirement of leadership.


​As I have written, "Everyone loves the idea of working together and tearing down “silos,” but the reality is, collaboration is an art, not a science. Great collaboration can produce better results, and increase scale and organizational agility. But poor collaboration leads to unhealthy competition, power struggles, and lousy results. Great collaboration, and knowing when to connect teams, requires a smart collaboration strategy" (Groscurth, 2018, p. 94). 

​​If you want to collaborate better, you ​have to change your mindset about ​power and how it's shared. My colleague and mindset expert, Dr. Ryan Gottfredson​​, argues that "mindsets are the mental lenses that we wear that shapes how we perceive our world."

​Because mindsets are powerful lenses​ that shape our reality and our behavior, they really have a major impact on ​how well we ​collaborate.


A collaboration strategy that is focused on mindset change ​starts with ​assessment. You can assess individual leaders, teams, or an entire organization. And you can assess a multitude of behaviors or attitudes about collaboration. When helping organizations make collaboration smarter, I like to start with assessing indviduals' mindsets about power.

​Below I've outlined a simple tool from my book that I call the "Smart Collaboration From/To Table." ​

Implicit in this table is the belief that if we want to improve collaboration​, then we have to make some perceptual shifts in how we think about power, influence, and ​organizational control. In Future-Ready Leadership, I go into detail about each of these elements of a persons' collaborative mindset.

For now, all you need to know is that getting a gauge on how far you are from the right-hand side of this table is a good place to start. If you're interested in assessing some of these dimension of smart collaboration​n on your team or in your own organization, click on the image below and take a short 25-item quiz.


​A smart collaboration strategy, focused on mindset change, starts with assessment​​​, but that's just the beginning. Mindset development requires individual, team, and organizational interventions to improve collaboration.

​Moreover, making collaboration smarter ​requires knowing when NOT to collaborate as well. Collaboration is hard work. If you want to improve ​collaboration, start by assessing how indivdiuals, teams, and your ​organization ​perceives and rewards power and influence.

Chris Groscurth, Ph.D.

Chris Groscurth, Ph.D., is author of Future-Ready Leadership: Strategies for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. For the past 20 years he has worked as a researcher and strategic advisor to leaders across healthcare, finance, manufacturing, government and education. In addition to his consulting work, Chris addresses thousands of leaders annually through speaking engagements and workshops. Throughout his career, he has held leadership positions with Gallup, the University of Michigan, and Trinity Health. Chris currently leads Stryker's global learning design and development team, shaping the future of leadership in a high-growth medical technology company. Chris received his doctorate in human communication processes from the University of Georgia and has bachelor's and master's degrees in human communication studies from Western Michigan University.

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