Megatrends and the Collaboration Imperative

| By TMA World


In their book Leadership 2030, Georg Vielmetter and Yvonne Sell describe six megatrends that will dramatically shape the future.  The complexity generated by these megatrends is neither good nor bad, it is simply the reality that must be managed.  Collaboration has been identified as a critical capability for ongoing business success, and even survival. 

Here’s what we’re looking at:

Globalization 2.0
According to the International Monetary Fund, by 2050 only three of the top world economies will be in the West – the U.S., Germany, and the U.K.  To succeed in this hyper-competitive environment, Western companies will need to partner with each other, and with companies in other regions, particularly Asia.  This doesn’t simply entail high-level institutional collaboration, but collaboration within and between global teams made up of different national, organizational, and professional cultures.  This is the reality today, but it will in only intensify and become more challenging in the future. 

Environmental Crisis
Climate change and the depletion of resources puts pressure on business organizations to reduce environmental impact and act in sustainable ways – not just for ethical reasons, but also for reputational and competitive reasons (e.g. attracting socially conscious millennials).  As the authors of Leadership 2030 say, “It may prove necessary to pursue multiple and sometimes contradictory objectives to reconcile commercial, economic, ecological, and social aims.”  Pursuing such contradictory objectives requires deep collaboration within organizations, as well as with external institutions.

Technology Convergence
New breakthroughs in areas such as nanotechnology, biological, information and cognitive sciences will accelerate new technological innovations and convergence.  This is likely to require higher levels of collaboration and partnership between competing businesses, and among technical experts from different fields of expertise.  Organizations will need to establish compatible climates, processes and platforms for collaboration to succeed across new and traditional boundaries; they must also equip individuals and teams with strong – yet flexible – collaborative mindsets and skills.

Globalization 2.0 is increasing income levels around the world enabling greater freedom of choice for many individuals.  Additionally, ‘mass’ production is under attack as digitization enables personal customization or products and services. This increases niche opportunities for businesses, but requires organizational agility to accommodate rapid market changes.  Organizational agility today is usually facilitated by the formation collaborative teams (often based on matrix relationships and enabled with virtual technologies).  While often effective, cross-organizational teamwork can be slow and prone to inertia.  More informal modes of collaboration (e.g. communities of practice and social networking) are likely to increase in importance to facilitate organizational agility.  Greater individualism in markets doesn’t negate the need for collaboration, but strengthens that need.       

The Internet, the Cloud, social media, and mobile connectivity are disrupting conventional notions of the ‘workplace’ and the ‘organization’.  Virtual, matrixed and networked organizational forms – while often difficult to implement and manage – are evolving to adapt to the new realities. Structured and/or emergent collaboration across multiple internal and external boundaries is becoming normalized as companies look to embrace the digital transformation of work, and better leverage the collective intelligence of their distributed global talent.  The new mantra is, “Collaborate to compete.”

Demographic Change
The new workforce is increasingly global and diverse.  Organizations will need to create the conditions in which different groups (e.g. generations) can be motivated and add value.  Accommodating differences between up to four generations in an organization is difficult.  Collaboration and networking opportunities in which there can be intentional knowledge and skills transfer between generations is critical.  Coaching and mentoring, which have typically been seen as more senior managers supporting the development of more junior colleagues, may need recalibrating.  Senior managers in a business are sometimes not the most experienced in working collaboratively with cultural differences in digital environments.  While it may be challenging for older generations, ‘reverse coaching’ may start to play a more prominent role.  

There are many lessons we must learn from these megatrends, but one stands out – collaboration is far from a flavour of the month management fad, it’s a critical imperative for ongoing competitiveness.

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