Collaboration is in our DNA

One of the most discussed topics in any enterprise is how to get better in Collaboration. We all know why this is discussed so much; but it is also strange to me we are forgetting that this is so much in our DNA.

First, I want to bring you back to the origin and try to understand why I say that we need to remember what is in our DNA. One of the very influential books I had read in recent years is the Homo Deus from Yuval Noah Harari. And in this book, Harari clearly articulated the following view: “Homo sapiens surely has some unique ability that enables it to dominate all the other animals…When we examine the historical record, we don’t see a direct correlation between the intelligence and toolmaking abilities of individual humans and the power of our species as a whole…Instead, the crucial factor in our conquest of the world was our ability to connect many humans to one another. Humans nowadays completely dominate the planet not because the individual human is far smarter and more nimble fingered than the individual chimp or wolf, but because Homo sapiens is the only species on earth capable of co-operating flexibly in large numbers.”   

Throughout the evolution, it was neither our intelligence nor our tool making capabilities that differentiated us, but it was our ability of co-operating flexibly (and do not miss flexibly part as that is the one which differ us from bees or ants which co-operate perfectly but not flexibly). 

And the next question to bring back to today’s business world is than; if that is our main differentiator in this world and already part of our DNA; then why today in business world, we are lacking or searching for better collaboration. That goes back to early 20th century and how we have structured our business world with the ideas and perspectives on management theories. In the past 100 years, Scientific Management Theory ruled the business world – The industrial era thinking of Frederic Taylor, Max Weber, Henri Fayol, and others which mandated a pure division of labour and bureaucratic management structures so that workers can execute the task efficiently. But today is a new world. Efficiency is a mandate for sure, but effectiveness and innovation are bigger mandates of 21st century. Hiring to culture, re-balanced org structures, citizenship rather than employment, T-shaped or π-shaped careers than I-shaped careers and Continuous Collaboration are the new requirements of Human Workplace Innovation. RACI’s are still important, but the RACI culture does more harm than good by putting processes beyond effective collaboration and innovation. (More on this in one of my previous articles here: From 1910 to 2021—Titanic, Taylorism and Management in the Current Age  

Moving forward, it might be good to clearly define what we understand from collaboration because there are so many terms used interchangeably, collaboration, co-operation, and coordination. And they are different. But even if you look at Google Trends and search for those three terms, it is very striking that there is close to almost perfect correlation between these search terms throughout the years. More interesting than that is though the same view compared breakdown by region: Whilst cooperation is the most searched term in Asian countries, Collaboration comes as first in English speaking countries like US, UK, Australia whereas coordination is the most common search term in many Middle East and Africa countries. This raises the further question about the cultural impact beyond the correlation (and / or confusion between these terms). To avoid confusion and to bring further clarity into this; we need to clearly define these terms under the spectrum of togetherness: 


  • Communication: The exchange of ideas and information 
  • Cooperation: Independent goals with agreements not to interfere with each other 
  • Coordination: Actions of users directed by a coordinator to achieve a common goal 
  • Collaboration: The process of shared creation; collectively creating something new that could not have been created by the individual users 

With these definitions in place, it is truly clear that the world requires continuous collaboration to build the innovations humanity expects and deserves. Communication, Cooperation or Coordination are not enough anymore. The old RACI Culture of 20th century is not enough anymore. We need to go back to our DNA, more than ever.  

 The ratio of We’s to I’s is the best indicator of chances of future success in this new world. This can be only achieved as “We” together. Collaboration in social or business setting is more important than ever.