Choose Collaboration Over Tactical Knowledge

How do great companies become great? Sure, they have great services and products, but it’s really more fundamental than that. Great companies become great because they have great people. This isn’t a new idea.

So what makes great people great? Well every company wants to hire smart people. Jeff Bezos famously said he’d rather hire people that are right vs. people that are smart. Sure, being smart and better yet, being right are great, but one of the most underestimated things, and most important, is finding people who are excellent at collaborating. Smart people can learn new skills, and adapt old ones. What a smart person lacks in tactical knowledge can be bridged with training.

Collaboration on the other hand is much harder to teach. It’s harder to teach because its more tied to personality traits, as opposed to tactical knowledge. Collaborators are open to feedback, they seek out the opinions of others and find happiness in seeing the success of the group. People who are destructive to collaboration have a vicious cycle on business output because their actions dissuade teamwork. And without teamwork, business stalls.

So if collaboration is so important, how can you find it? What do you need to look for?

  • It’s a subtle distinction but look for pronoun use. Are you hearing “I’s” or “We’s”? In my observation, collaborative people tend to use “we” more often as they are describing the success of the team, rather than their success as an individual.
  • Find people that are eager to learn, and recognize that they’ll always have new skills and knowledge to acquire.
  • Look for good listeners. These are the people that don’t speak unless they have something to say. They’re more open to opposing points of view and how those ideas can improve the output of the group.

Pick smart collaborators over really smart individuals who are destructive to collaboration.

One Comment

  1. Fully agree with the value of collaboration and the benefit of an inherently collaborative work style over tactical knowledge. Also agree with “we” and listening skills as good indicators. I believe many organization cultures today inadvertently stifle collaboration by over-communicating via email and messaging resulting in people that don’t talk to each other.

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