Working better together - a study of innovation and collaboration at work

As a culture, and in business, we've become increasingly conscious of the positive impact of collaboration, group interaction and free exchange of information. And with the word “social” tied to many of the ways we now spend our time — social media, social apps, social gaming, social software — we're often reminded of the power of connecting and sharing.

The numbers reflect this trend. Over the last decade, Google search volume for the term “social collaboration” has grown globally by more than 300 percent, while interest for the term “social innovation” has jumped more than 200 percent. And the money trail is headed in the same direction: business leaders are directing focus and budget on tools and strategies that foster collaboration.

So how exactly does collaboration stack up against other business objectives in the eyes of today's business leaders? We teamed up with Raconteur to find out. We surveyed senior staff and C-suite executives at 258 North American companies of all sizes and industries about a wide range of business concerns, from changes that impact profitability, to barriers and drivers of innovation, to the most formidable organizational threats they're facing, to the tools they're using to address their challenges. Here's what those business leaders told us.

Collaboration is good business

Our research shows that the benefits of collaboration extend far beyond the success of any single project. An overwhelming 73% of business leaders said their organization would be more successful if employees could work in more flexible and collaborative ways. In fact, they tell us that “employees working together more collaboratively in person” is the number one factor impacting profitability.

Another eye-opening discovery was that collaboration and employee happiness go hand in hand: 88% of business leaders who believe their company fosters a culture of knowledge sharing and collaboration also say employee morale and job satisfaction are high.

Business leaders also told us that the most serious people management-related threats to organizations are failure to attract enough talent (25%), inability to retain the best talent (18%), and concerns about a disengaged workforce (14%). While we haven't proven a direct causation, it appears that a culture of collaboration could potentially help address these threats by creating a more desirable work environment.

Who can spark change?

While business leaders look to departments across the organization for innovation and collaboration, they consider IT the greatest changemaker. Twenty-six percent named IT the leading department for driving innovation, and 28% named IT the department that best collaborates with internal and external teams. So we weren't surprised when leaders also told us that investing in technology, which IT manages, has the biggest impact on knowledge sharing and collaboration. We saw that companies of all sizes rely on IT and technology for the tools to share, innovate and transform.

Business teams with access to the right technologies and tools and the support of IT and leadership can work better together, with greater mobility. And this paves the way for a collaborative culture that may bring a host of benefits, including greater profitability, happier employees and more consistent innovation. We may continue to be surprised by what results when teams truly sync.