A favourite word when talking about digital disruption is collaboration. Fewer stories of innovation nowadays come out of one organisation, but there are plenty of examples of collaborative activity, such as:
- Santander X, an ecosystem for university entrepreneurship being created by Banco Santander and 40 universities
- Amazon Pantry, powered by Morrisons, not to mention their ‘coopetition’ model through services such as Amazon Marketplace
- The Financial Conduct Authority’s regtech approach, supported by Grant Thornton among others
Collaboration feels like a core value of the fourth industrial revolution, and also something that doesn’t come naturally to us. Ian Livingstone CBE, co-author of the 2011 paper Next Gen., which identified a concerning skills gap for the UK in computer science, pointed out that the way our schools approach learning through exam-taking leads British children to believe that “collaboration is cheating”.
We need to allow children to lead the teaching some of the time, inside the schools, and encourage peer-to-peer learning because it’s so important in this area. Today’s children are part of a connected generation – they are born onto the internet, so let them connect and share and collaborate and hack their own knowledge.
Entering the workplace could provide an opportunity for that thinking to shift, but as general performance focus is on individual productivity rather than team-wide, organisation-wide and society-wide objectives, there is not much to combat that attitude.
That’s why it’s a pleasure to get behind Grant Thornton’s purpose of shaping a Vibrant Economy, as I hope many others do too. In the Government’s Industrial Strategy paper, AI is an area that one estimate claims could add £232bn to the UK economy by 2030, far greater than the worst predictions of the Brexit fallout, but collaboration is central to this. Without industries to work with and transform, AI is no more than a thought experiment for a tiny elite group of data scientists.
So there’s certainly hope, and that will only be seen through overcoming obstacles, which relies on strong, authentic, visionary leadership. Perhaps my optimism should be more cautious than this, but I believe cultural change is rippling out into industry, and bigger and better collaboration is on the cards.
If you’re looking to develop your collaboration skills, attitudes and activities, I’d love for us to be a part of that journey, so please do get in touch.
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