MBA Research

Trend #22: The Need for Collaborative Skills

Business Trend

Our trend for May continues to receive a lot of discussion with business leaders. It is the need for collaborative skills. Collaboration has become the business buzzword as businesses operate flatter and expect more team, pod, and group collaborative efforts for problem-solving. .

Workplace Implications

Businesses are challenged to eliminate departmental silos to remain competitive in today’s dynamic world. They are challenging cultures that encourage “siloed” thinking in favor of enterprise thinking. Department leaders are expected to align departmental priorities with organizational priorities. Functional lines are becoming blurred as managers in departments such as finance, marketing, and IT develop alliances and work collaboratively to achieve the priorities of organization.

Additionally, businesses are increasingly moving toward the use of interdepartmental teams that form for a specific project, disband when the project is finished, and regroup with other teams when new projects surface. Smaller teams are expected to tackle big projects. Remote and geographically dispersed teams are expected to use technology to bridge time and space differences.
Classroom Implications

Students need to develop their ability to communicate with individuals from different knowledge backgrounds to prevent misunderstandings that could jeopardize achievement of the goal. Teachers should encourage students to develop a broad knowledge of business processes and techniques to supplement the technical knowledge related to their functional role. A marketing student should understand how marketing relates to finance and business management and be able to communicate well with these functions. The same applies to the other functional disciplines. Use of technical jargon, acronyms, or other language that may not be common knowledge for individuals working in other departments should be discouraged.

Students also need to understand the skills and behaviors required of a good project team member. They need to learn how to ask probing, open-ended questions to elicit information and input from other team members; how to consider dependencies in the ordering of task completion; and how to efficiently advise team members of progress and issues. Teachers should also teach students the challenges commonly associated with cross-functional teams and how to use systematic problem-solving and consensus-building strategies to gain resolution.