December 5, 2021

Fostering a Collective Mindset: Making Collaboration Work

Most organizations aspire to be collaborative. The benefits are clear, but the path is often elusive.

The organizations that succeed invest in the quality of relationships among their employees. This investment pays: open, trusting and connected organizations consistently outperform peers in innovation, workplace productivity and inclusion.

But supporting healthy relationships requires a different mindset - one that rewards collective rather than individual thinking. In fact, a collective mindset expands traditional views of “thinking,” acknowledging and embracing emotional intelligence and social interaction.

The end result: an empowered workforce, willing to tackle problems, dissolve silos and contribute to solutions at every level of the organization.  

This is not easy - because it’s not business as usual. The prevailing Western culture glorifies the individual and IQ. These roots run deep.

In 1637, French philosopher René Descartes asserted his now-famous cogito ergo sum: “I think, therefore I am.”  

Widely credited as the father of the scientific method, Descartes declared the “thinking self” as the only source of truth, far more reliable than the emotions or the senses. This primacy of the thinking self grounds the systems that drive Western culture, including capitalism, materialism, large portions of western religion and the western education system.

The workplace follows suit. Organizational metrics – hiring, recognition and promotions – overwhelmingly reward individual success over group achievements. Even when group achievement is desired.

In stark contrast, Eastern philosophies view the individual not as separate and distinct from his or her environment, but as part of a holistic view of life and the universe.

South African Ubuntu philosophy posits that a human being is not a person merely by virtue of being born. Only through a set of relationships with family and community does the person emerge over time. Bishop Desmond Tutu explains this with a Zulu proverb: “a person is a person through other persons.”

A person is a person through other persons.

It’s more than just philosophy. The science on collective intelligence tells us that the smartest teams are not a collection of the smartest individuals, but a group with higher social sensitivities and more balanced turn taking in their deliberations. The most intelligent teams or groups are interdependent.

To create more open and collaborative workplaces we need to foster and reward interdependence rather than independence – to encourage authentic rather than cosmetic collaboration. Shifting the focus from individual competencies to collaborative or collective capacity expands possibility and enhances productivity.

But moving from “I” to “you” – and ultimately to “we” – takes work, time and practice: listening, suspending our beliefs, disagreeing respectfully. In this new hybrid and decentralized work environment, it requires intention. And it’s more important than ever.

Reflection Point provides the space and the context to practice relationship skills, to foster a collective mindset by forging the relationships that foster interdependence.

When we take time to reflect and share ideas with each other, we expand the collective mindset: we honor collaboration over individual performance, and facilitate interaction over silos. And we supercharge our shared objectives.

Isn’t time for a mindset shift?

Image Credit:
M.C. Escher, Drawing Hands, 1948, via
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