The Importance of Collaboration to Business Success

In January 2015, I wrote a column titled, “How Highly Does Your Organization Value Collaboration?”

In this update to that column, I cite a few passages from the 2015 article, but have also included a link to the original piece in the EASI•Consult® newsletter, “Perspectives.”  In addition, I wrote a series of columns for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal about the nine dimensions of learning agility. In my August 2016 article for the series, I focused on the dimension of Collaborating. I recap a few of the points I made in that piece as well, which you can read in its entirety here.

EASI•Consult®’s work in learning agility is in part due to a collegial relationship I have had with Dr. Warner Burke for more than 30 years. Dr. Burke, who teaches Organizational Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University (my alma mater), began focusing his research on learning agility six years ago.

He defines learning agility as dealing with unfamiliar experiences by trying new behaviors, getting feedback on these attempts and making quick adjustments so new learning will be realized in those instances when you don’t know exactly what to do. Dr. Burke also incorporates the roles of skill and motivation in learning agility.

For me, skill is simply a question of ‘Can you do it?’ with motivation being then, ‘Do you want to do it?’

When I wrote the column, “How Highly Does You Organization Value Collaboration?”, EASI•Consult® had not yet introduced a test that could measure learning agility and collaboration. When I wrote the article last summer on Collaborating, we had completed the self-report version of the Burke Learning Agility Inventory™ (Burke LAI).

At the time, some were concerned that test-takers would rate themselves very highly, and the test therefore would not be worthwhile. Nearly a year and a half later, the data we have indicates that concern was unfounded.

Looking at all the data we have collected, there is a normal distribution of test-takers, i.e. individuals scoring very low to those with very high scores, and everything in-between. This is what researchers hope to find. We knew ultimately, we wanted to create a 360 version of the questionnaire, and have just released that version.

A 360 questionnaire allows individuals to first complete the questionnaire for and about themselves, then co-workers and colleagues complete a questionnaire rating them as well. This gives the person being measured a view of how he sees himself and how others see him, from several perspectives.

I recently worked with a senior manager who completed the Burke LAI, as did his supervisor. His rating of himself for the overall test and each of the nine learning agility dimensions was very high (above the 90th percentile). His supervisor’s ratings for some of the dimensions were as high as that senior manager’s own ratings, but the supervisor’s overall score was moderate and the score given for Collaborating was very low.

The challenge, then, was how to understand and reconcile these different views of the same person. First blush might be that one is right and the other is wrong. I thought about the senior manager’s information for some time, then told him I thought both views were accurate.

So, how do you reconcile them? He didn’t have a response. I told him I thought it came down to two other elements of learning agility – skill and motivation. He answered the questionnaire based on whether he had the skill or capability. From his perspective, there was no question – he had the skills to collaborate.

The feedback from his supervisor was there were times when he should have been collaborating with others but the supervisor just didn’t see it. Simply put, if the supervisor can’t see it, he or she doesn’t know if it is a capability or not.

When I presented him with that interpretation, he indicated it was accurate. His response – there are certain situations and people in the organization with whom I choose not to put forth the effort – a motivation issue.

As EASI•Consult® continues its work in the area of learning agility, we continually learn and offer additional insights to our customers. In the above example, if we had just used the self-version of the Burke LAI, we would have gotten a picture of someone who was very capable in all nine areas of learning agility.

However, by also surveying his supervisor using the Burke 360questionnaire, we flushed out that although he is fully capable, he may not choose to use that capability and collaborate with others.

The person in my example is very important to the organization for which he works and is crucial to leading it where it needs to go in the future. The organization values collaboration, so how do they get it from everyone all the time? The Burke 360 questionnaire provides opportunities to answer that question and find solutions by revealing a wider spectrum of perspectives.

David Hoff is the chief operation officer and executive vice president for leadership development at EASIConsult®. EASIConsult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASIConsult® specialties include individual assessment, online employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASIConsult®, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.


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