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Perspectives by Thoughtworks - Edition 7 banner

Section 1: Individuals

It all starts here

Why it matters

Any form of collaboration begins with, and ultimately depends on, individuals deciding not to ‘go it alone,’ and reaching across a divide to pool their skills with others. 

What it looks like 

There are as many ways for individuals to collaborate, and styles of collaboration, as there are people. But in deciding to collaborate, the individual will adopt at least some of the tenets of our collaboration code.  

The collaboration code

What prevents it

Again, there are a multitude of reasons people might hesitate to share their knowledge or skills with others, but the most commonly cited factors include: 

  • Failure to see (or lack of faith in) the benefits of collaboration 
  • Fear - of ‘getting it wrong,’ facing opposition or even ridicule 
  • Desire to maintain personal autonomy, or ‘take all the credit’
  • Lack of time or appropriate opportunities for collaboration 
  • Bias, conscious or unconscious, towards would-be collaborators 

How to make it happen 

Many of the most common concerns around collaboration are rooted in a fear of loss - of control, dignity, or ideas that the individual sees as his or her own. That means one of the biggest steps the manager or enterprise can take to encourage individuals to collaborate is to promote trust, and provide a measure of reassurance. Possible steps in this direction include: 

  • Clearly outlining the goals and potential benefits of collaboration 
  • Creating an open, hierarchy-free environment 
  • Making it clear all contributions are welcome and (at least initially) have equal value
  • Acknowledging and rewarding the individual role in a collaborative project  

Key technology drivers 

Collaboration software tools provide a powerful foundation for individuals to team up and tackle initiatives together regardless of their physical location. At Thoughtworks, a cloud-based toolset centered around Google’s G Suite is at the core of a collaboration hub that has become a vital platform and source of knowledge for some 7,000 individual employees globally.

These employees have come together to form a similar number of groups that exemplify the multiple ways people across a global enterprise intersect and work together. There are groups based around physical offices and markets; clients and projects; business functions; and communities of practice, interest and identity. The largest, focused on software development, encompasses roughly a third of the company.  

Combining communities, chatrooms and shared documents, G Suite allows teams across various environments and functions to jointly tackle project plans, work with structured data and shift information between various applications; supporting an international approach to Thoughtworks’ operations. Usage is high, with around half the company viewing shared documents each and every day.

According to Andy Yates, Thoughtworks Head of Strategy, TechOps, the company is working on extending the hub’s capabilities through the integration of third-party and self-developed tools. He is optimistic this steady evolution will help ensure collaboration remains at the heart of the company. 

As we've introduced new tools, we've also seen a significant cultural shift," he says. "People feel liberated by the ease with which they can collaborate now, and would probably feel constrained if we went back to the old ways of working.”

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