Globalization Opens New
Doors for Meaningful Collaboration

Written by Judy Tierney

As a string of powerful hurricanes recently ravaged areas of the U.S. and islands across the Atlantic Ocean, news agencies provided 24-hour coverage of the devastation and destruction in their wakes. Viewers from around the world watched minute-by-minute coverage of first responders staging rescues, neighbors helping neighbors, and communities offering shelter to victims displaced from their homes.

Dr. Melody Rawlings

The 2017 hurricane season in the U.S. was the second worst in the past five decades. Hurricane Harvey alone left hundreds of thousands of people in need of shelter or federal assistance and caused billions of dollars in damage. If there is a silver lining to these tragic events, it’s the outpouring of global support, donations and aid from individuals, companies and charitable organizations coming together to make a difference for those impacted.

Vince Lombardi, Hall of Fame National Football League Coach once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Fifty years later, in a dynamic economy where technology enables instant communications and transactions, the opportunities for meaningful collaboration and contribution are even greater.

In the aftermath of these tragic events, massive fundraising efforts were initiated – from lemonade stands run by children to major corporate donation programs. Concerned residents in nearby towns brought boats to transport victims from flooded houses. Thousands donated school supplies, personal hygiene products, food and water, while others joined volunteer teams to load trucks to transport the items to people in need. All united for a common cause.

“Although collaboration is a fundamental business requirement, at its core, it is also a social activity,” says Dr. Melody Rawlings, lead faculty for the Master of Science in Organizational Leadership (MSOL) and the Doctor of Philosophy in Organizational Leadership (PhDOL) programs at NCU. “Collaboration is a natural part of life and it happens in nearly every area – professionally and personally.”

We caught up with Rawlings to hear her insights on teamwork and why collaboration is critical to an organization’s success. Rawlings believes partnerships predicated on respect, generosity, sharing and openness greatly enhance potential and provide benefits for both teams and individuals.

“Collaboration is a natural part of life and it happens in nearly every area – professionally and personally.”

Dr. Melody Rawlings, lead faculty for NCU’s MSOL and PhDOL programs

What are the Benefits of Collaboration?

1. Creates Accountability

“Making a personal investment in the team can bring out the best in people by instilling a positive, competitive spirit,” says Rawlings. “Knowing that they have a stake in the project and that you are responsible to others on the team often motivates people to be their best.”

2. Defines the Challenges

No two people view a problem in exactly the same way. Having diverse perspectives and looking through the lens from someone else’s eyes can lead to approaches we may not have even considered. Rawlings cautions those who back away from collaboration out of fear that it will create more work. Exploring the challenge from multiple angles may reveal a more streamlined approach to tackling it.

3. Demonstrates How We Value Others

“In a world where it is so easy to get caught up in our differences, partnering with others creates a unique synergy,” says Rawlings. Citing Bill Gates’ philosophy that collaboration is the key to innovation, she points out that great ideas usually arise when a group of individuals puts their heads together. Openly listening to teammates and respecting their ideas and input sheds a light on the value we place on these partnerships.

4. Promotes Learning

“In today’s global economy, supply chains are becoming even more complex,” says Rawlings. “They rely on networks of individuals working together to get the job done.” Strategically inviting other voices into the discussion and thinking together broadens overall knowledge across the chain and better positions organizations to remain competitive in the marketplace.

5. Fosters Personal Growth and Leadership Development

According to Rawlings, collaboration can inspire what she calls “swift learning.” “It challenges us to be smarter, think more creatively and process information faster,” she explains. “By working on diverse teams, we expand our personal skill set which helps position us to be stronger leaders down the road.”

6. Builds Relationships and Networks

Although fears of criticism, failure or having someone take credit for your ideas can be a deterrent, Rawlings believes that the opportunities of collaborating far outweigh the risks. “Because collaboration at its core is a social activity, it enables us to build relationships and make powerful connections which can last far into the future,” she says.

“Although we tend to think about it in a professional setting, collaboration impacts virtually every area of our lives.”

Dr. Melody Rawlings

“Although we tend to think about it in a professional setting, collaboration impacts virtually every area of our lives,” explains Rawlings. “From our day-to-day family activities to running a household to our involvement in our communities, our interactions are integral to everything we do.”

Looking at the lessons we can learn from the 2017 hurricane season, building cultures that encourage and support collaboration can result in benefits not only for the organization, but for the employees and individuals they serve. At NCU, Rawlings sees university-wide collaboration efforts as a driving force that will continue to lead students to academic success and beyond.

In a university where most students have professional experience, the one-to-one learning model gives students and professors an opportunity to learn from each other. “The thing that has stood out to me the most is the energy and synergy that it creates,” she concludes. “When we are working together, valuing each other, and realizing how much we depend on each other, it makes each one of us want to be our best.”