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INTRODUCTION - The Culture of Collaboration

Our collective culture, particularly in the United States, perpetuates the Myth of the Single Cowboy. This is the notion that one self-suf­ficient, rugged individual can achieve smashing success without help from anybody. Consider our preoccupation with celebrity. We turn athletes, chefs, politicians, surgeons, television hosts, entrepreneurs, corporate leaders and many others into stars. This tendency creates the impression that we accomplish great feats by ourselves. 
In fact, a meal in an upscale restaurant is often the work of an executive chef, sous chef, line cooks, prep people, expeditors, servers and others. And without an anesthesiologist and nurses, a surgeon— not to mention the patient—would be in trouble. The world’s best quarterback needs receivers, running backs and linemen. To save Gotham City, Batman needs Robin. And even the Lone Ranger needs his sidekick, Tonto.

Many organizations reinforce the Myth of the Single Cowboy by embracing a star culture. Such cultures reward people for compet­ing with colleagues. The primary motivator often becomes fear rather than value creation. In these environments, getting ahead requires hoarding ideas and information. Why share knowledge with competitors? In such cultures, opportunities to maximize time, talent and tools die on the vine.

The Culture of Collaboration is about changing business models and organizational DNA. Collaborative organizations promote shar­ing over hoarding, trust over fear and community over isolation. With these and other values, we can more easily replace linear, serial business models with concurrent, real-time approaches that are infi­nitely more compelling.

Rather than designing parts individually and assembling them into a product, we can design parts, products and manufacturing processes all at the same time. In service industries, it’s a similar story. We can include people from multiple functions in developing services and processes. They can participate simultaneously, instead of passing instructions through levels and functions for others to implement.

The Culture of Collaboration also enables companies to partici­pate in developing, assembling, delivering, and supporting products and services throughout the world. By creating a universe of globally-distributed business partners, organizations can operate as a single enterprise round-the-clock. They may utilize collaboration tools and common processes and systems to reduce barriers includ­ing geography and time zones. These partnering companies form the global collaborative enterprise, which we will discuss in chapter 10.

With the expectation of closing the distance gap, companies with operations in multiple countries may adopt the right processes, sys­tems, strategies and tools to enable collaboration. In many cases, however, their efforts come up short. Collaboration may occur, but only sporadically. Something is missing.

Managers may blame the lack of collaboration on technological shortcomings. And, in fact, technology plays a role. In most cases, however, the overwhelming reason why collaboration eludes organi­zations involves culture. This book’s fundamental premise is that maximizing time, talent and tools to create value requires the Cul­ture of Collaboration.

Without a Culture of Collaboration, the best processes,
systems, tools, and leadership strategies fall flat.

Let’s begin by examining the sweeping changes that are redefining work, business models, and organizations.