We've all heard the saying: "renew or die" and it's true as gold. What we are not told is what we need to renew in order not to die. Nor do they make it very clear to us what it is that lulls us and takes away all our efforts. Well, today more than ever, organizations with hierarchical leadership suffer a lot. Successful projects are those that are built on the foundations of collaborative work. But what's it all about? Collaborative work occurs in a group whose leader is responsible for the accompaniment he or she provides to achieve the success of the team. In other words, direct communication is fostered that allows the development of creative ideas, that listens to constructive criticism and that can see beyond the tip of the nose.

Collaborative organizations have few hierarchical layers. Structures that have as many levels as skyscrapers became very fashionable after World War II, however, they had many problems with effective communication. Today, we understand the importance of hierarchy, there must be a leader who sets the course and members of a team who follow him.

However, that doesn't mean that the leader has all the answers or that he can't make mistakes. Rather, whoever raises the baton is willing to listen to the different tones of his orchestra, and each member is committed to taking care that everything on their part goes well to achieve the best result.

What we need to know about collaborative work is how it operates. We've heard so much and amid all that morass of ideas, a lot of false information has leaked out. For example, communal workspaces, which were a trend in the 1970s, began to become fashionable in the post-pandemic era. A study carried out by the company Market Smash shows that workers who do not have their own space tend to feel disaggregated, unaffiliated, and confused.

We must know that collaborative work has a fundamental requirement: to be efficient. The idea is that workspaces – both physical and virtual – need to facilitate communication and the achievement of goals. It is not a fashion that relates to colors and ergonomics. It goes above and beyond. There are times when team members need to be together, brainstorm, and generate discussion, and there are other times to get down to business, focus, and start executing strategies. A collaborative organization knows that there are moments of privacy that need to be cultivated and provide these spaces, as well as those where the team needs to be gathered.

Collaborative work understands both moments. Working collaboratively doesn't mean sitting down at an endless table typing in front of a computer. Nor is it being gathered in the same room or having the computer on in a virtual meeting. That has been one of the serious mistakes of implementation: we stay in the form – without analyzing advantages and disadvantages – and forget about the substance. I know many companies that rushed to remodel their facilities, invested in opening up impersonal spaces, and are now taking a step back. Many organizations are no longer so comfortable because their members have disintegrated and walk like floating islands lost in a work morass.

What we should learn from collaborative work is the depth of the concept. It's a soft skill that seeks productivity. Allow people to participate in idea generation. It allows them to contribute to decision-making. Understand who's in charge. It fosters accompaniment in the broadest of senses.

In other words, a leader needs to know that collaborative work will require them to accompany their team members. If anyone has a question, they should clarify it. However, he also understands that there are sensitive situations that are dealt with personally. For example, collaborative work doesn't mean reprimanding or pointing out a mistake in front of everyone; A collaborative organization will provide a space and time of privacy to deal with sensitive matters properly.

Collaborative work is very beneficial when implemented well and has great benefits:

  1. It takes care of the work team, distributes the loads equitably, avoids burnout and this has the direct effect of better productivity and a much more harmonious generation of results.

  2. The leader trusts his work team because he knows that its members are trained and therefore gives them a range of freedom and responsibility that they know how to handle. This has the immediate benefit of widespread optimism in the workplace that drives people to work toward goals.

  3. Since the members of the work team have effective communication and can participate in the generation of ideas and decision-making, there is great empathy with the leaders. This results in a virtuous circle in which we work at ease without feeling that we have an inspector on top of us who is seeing when we are wrong, but that we have a group of people willing to help us.

Of course, collaborative work is not a list of good reasons and best intentions: it requires training. Organizations that don't take the time to train their people in this new way of managing, that think that everything is about changing desks and breaking down walls, are staying superficial and will have superfluous results.

Training in collaborative work is training them in effective communication between peers and with different hierarchies, teaching them to build meaningful professional relationships, and forging a real work team in which feedback, active listening, and respect are encouraged. Collaborative work is about making everyone feel respected and valued.

Of course, all work teams, both collaborative and hierarchical, have problems. What distinguishes the former from the latter is that those who work collaboratively have received conflict management training, know how to build arguments, reach consensus, and have learned to find constructive solutions to the challenges that arise.

Collaborative work is a profound and necessary concept. Some stay on the surface and approach the challenge with frivolity and haste. What we need to learn is that this is an indispensable skill for success. It's a philosophy. It's a wake-up call before the sleepy shrimp thing happens to us.